Rick Hanisch’s Daughter Pursues Same Profession and Military Career as Her Father

Rick Hanisch values both his family and his job as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). As a U.S. Army veteran and CRNA for nearly 20 years, he was honored when his daughter Liberty decided to pursue a career in the military as a nurse anesthetist. It’s his hope that she and the next generation of CRNAs can provide quality, patient-centered anesthesia care consistent with their education and training without physician supervision.

Last year, he and his wife moved from Spokane, Washington, to Raleigh to be closer to Liberty and help care for their grandson. Following in her father’s footsteps, Liberty, a former Army nurse, attends the Raleigh School of Nurse Anesthesia, where she will graduate in 2018. The Hanisch’s son Adam, who still lives in Washington, is a helicopter pilot in the National Guard.

In 1973, Rick joined the Army and earned his nursing degree from Montana State University on the GI Bill. Initially working as a medic, he had many friends who were CRNAs and wanted a job that combined autonomy and patient care. He applied to anesthesia school at the University of Texas via the Army Graduate Program and graduated in 1998.

“One of the things the Army warned us about in anesthesia school was that we’ll use our education to the utmost while in the military but that freedom of practice may change once we are CRNAs working in the civilian world,” said Rick.

In the military, Rick worked as a nurse anesthetist in Thailand, Germany and Afghanistan. In the Middle East, he and another CRNA had full practice authority within their Forward Surgical medical team. The team consisted of 20 highly-mobile people and included two CRNAs, four surgeons and additional support staff. They worked with Special Forces, the 82nd Airborne Division and were responsible for the entire base at Kandahar, Afghanistan.

Today, Rick has autonomy when working as a CRNA for a sedation service in Raleigh, but works under a supervisory model at a hospital on the North Carolina coast.

“After working as a military CRNA, I’m confident in my education and experience as a civilian CRNA,” he said. “Now it’s fun for me to watch my daughter go through anesthesia school. I think she saw the same things in nurse anesthesia as I did – an opportunity for autonomy and increased responsibility from practice.”

In May, the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) published a proposed rule extending full practice authority to CRNAs, which would allow them to provide anesthesia services without the oversight of a physician when working within their scope of practice. Rick and his family have written letters advocating for the competency, training and expert care CRNAs possess to independently perform anesthesia in VA facilities.

“As a CRNA and a patient of the VA myself, I trust nurse anesthetists to administer anesthesia and support things that can be done to provide veterans with access to better quality care,” said Rick.

Rick hopes the rule will serve as a precedent for future CRNAs and encourages nurse anesthetists, as well as their family members to write letters to the VA by the July 25, 2016 deadline. Sample letters can be found here.