CRNA Perspectives
  • Advocacy in Action

    By Catherine Horvath, DNP, CRNA

    After a colleague succumbed to the disease of addiction — addiction to an anesthetic drug — I knew I wanted to learn more about how this could happen to a smart, dedicated, and expert nurse anesthetist. I also wanted to make an impact by raising awareness of this problem in our profession, with the goal of preventing at least one more person from losing their life to this awful disease.  

    Over the years, I have educated myself on the prevalence of substance use disorder in our profession. I learned the signs and behaviors associated with it and diversion of drugs in the workplace. I started to notice processes that could be improved to decrease the “ease” of access to addictive drugs and did a scholarly project on medication security and tracking. As an individual anesthesia professional, I felt that I was advocating for others in my profession, to help them — and maybe myself — avoid the ugly trap of substance misuse. 

    Later in my career in the role of educator, I developed and implemented a wellness curriculum for nurse anesthesia students. One component was education about the pathophysiology of addiction and recognition and treatment of substance misuse, but another part of the curriculum was how to avoid maladaptive coping mechanisms by establishing and maintaining provider wellbeing.  

    This “preventing the problem before it starts” approach appealed to me. I joined the AANA Health and Wellness committee, with a charge to increase resources on strategies to maintain mental and physical wellness and financial, social, and professional wellbeing. I joined a multi-organization nursing taskforce, looking at improving civility in the perioperative environment. When given the opportunity, I speak or publish locally and nationally on the topics of burnout, suicide, and substance use disorder, as well as coping resources to improve the wellbeing of anesthesia professionals and students.  

    All these experiences illustrate why, to me, Nurse Anesthesiology Is Advocacy. Nurse anesthetists advocate daily for our patients’ safety and right to quality healthcare. We advocate for our profession and our scope of practice. We advocate for the best educational standards and well recognized certification. We advocate for one another as members of a community of caring professionals.  

    I will continue to advocate for our collective ability to thrive and be well, to have access to resources when we are struggling with mental health, finances, and substance use disorder, and to provide a voice when others need help.   

    Catherine Horvath DNP, CRNA, CHSE AANA # 43639 

    Assistant Professor and Program Director for the DNP Nurse Anesthesia Track 

    Johns Hopkins School of Nursing 

    525 N. Wolfe Street, Baltimore Maryland 21205 

    O: 410-955-4694 C: 202-538-1790 E: twitter: @CatherineHorva9 




    If you or a CRNA/student you know needs support for alcohol or other drug use, help is available. Call the AANA Helpline at 800-654-5167 for 24/7 confidential live support.