Retired Nurse Anesthetist Charles Vacchiano Teaches Future CRNAs 
His hope is for CRNAs to practice to the fullest extent of their training no matter where they reside


Charles “Chuck” Vacchiano worked as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) with full practice authority for nearly three decades while serving in the Navy to provide active-duty service members with quality anesthesia care.

After earning his Bachelor of Science in nursing in 1979, Chuck accepted a commission in the U.S. Navy, wanting to follow in the footsteps of his father who also served in the military for 26 years.

In 1984, he earned a Bachelor of Science in anesthesia from George Washington University in Washington, D.C and in 1994 a Ph.D. from the Medical University of South Carolina via the Navy.

The quality anesthesia training Chuck received allowed him to work autonomously while in the military and save lives.

In 1986, while deployed aboard a Marine troop ship in the Mediterranean Sea, Chuck helped save the life of a Special Forces team member who was struck in the head, face and neck by a small boat propeller.

As the only anesthesia professional on-board, he cared for the unconscious patient by securing his airway and mechanically ventilating him until a neurosurgeon could be flown to the ship.

When the surgeon finally arrived, Chuck administered anesthesia during the patient’s 12-hour surgery. The patient eventually had a complete recovery and returned to active duty in large part because of the care Chuck provided him.

Chuck retired from the Navy in 2006 and became the director of the Gooding Institute, Bay Medical Center Nurse Anesthesia Program before moving to North Carolina to work for Duke University as a researcher and professor in the nurse anesthesia program.Had that happened outside of the military, Chuck would have to wait to be supervised by an anesthesiologist, rather than work quickly to save the Sailor’s life.

After 26 years working independently with full practice authority, once he retired and went to work as a civilian CRNA, Chuck found in some settings he was required to be supervised by anesthesiologists. Experienced CRNAs, like Chuck, are often restricted in their ability to practice to the full extent of their education and training, which can result in outdated and impractical practice models that do not benefit the patient.

“It doesn’t make sense for society to pay two or three people to do the job one person could do. Paying an anesthesiologist to supervise a CRNA who doesn’t require it, only increases costs for the patient,” said Chuck. “I don’t think there should be a requirement or a local or regional imposition at any facility for an anesthesiologist to supervise a nurse anesthetist.”

Chuck said the focus should be on providing patients with the best possible anesthesia care. While working in a South Carolina hospital, he was once prevented from performing a spinal anesthetic on a patient because he was told only anesthesiologists could administer regional anesthesia in that institution– something he had done hundreds of times as a CRNA in the Navy.

“I realized that supervision of CRNAs is often driven by politics, power and money and not because they’re unqualified. I don’t think there is any reason whatsoever for a CRNA who desires to work independently, has gone through an accredited program and has post-graduate experience, to need direct supervision,” he said.

Today as a Duke University professor, he teaches the next generation of CRNAs. Chuck hopes they’ll be able to practice to the fullest extent of their training no matter what state they choose to live and work.