A nurse anesthetist is a highly specialized registered nurse with the education and experience necessary to administer anesthesia to patients. Nurse anesthetists are an essential part of surgical teams, outpatient facilities, dentist’s offices, and other medical facilities.
About Nurse Anesthetists
Nurse Anesthetist is actually a shortened version of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist or CRNA. A CRNA is a registered nurse qualified to administer anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists are some of the highest-paid nurses in the medical field and work in a variety of medical spaces, from hospitals to private offices. The job is highly specialized and difficult, involving advanced training and certification. Nurse anesthetists are one of three types of advanced nurses. The other two are nurse practitioners and nurse-midwives.
A nurse anesthetist is different from an anesthesiologist due to education. However, both medical professionals focus on delivering anesthesia, using the same techniques to get the best result for the patient.
Education and Experience Needed
To become a nurse anesthetist, you first must become a registered nurse or RN. Get licensed in at least one state, and get your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). After that, get a year or two of experience as a registered nurse. Seek out acute care jobs, like emergency room jobs, to prepare yourself for the CRNA programs. Even if your CRNA program does not ask for any work experience, getting experience as a surgical nurse or an E.R. nurse will help you prepare for the stress and demands being a nurse anesthetist can put on you.
Your next step is to attend one of the accredited CRNA programs and obtain your master’s degree. The master’s program takes between two and four years to complete. After that, you need to pass a certification exam with The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nursing Anesthetists.
Once you’re certified, you need to complete continuing education to keep a current certification. Typically, you have two years to complete 40 hours of continuing education requirements.
The US Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that the mean annual wage for a nurse anesthetist is $164,030, and the median (the 50th percentile) is $160,270. Nurse anesthetists in the 25th percentile for salary earn $137,800, while professionals in the 75th percentile earn $189,880. Of the three advanced nursing positions, nurse anesthetists make the highest median salary by a significant margin.
In some states, nurse anesthetists earn considerably more. The state with the highest average salary in Montana, at $242,140. Wyoming comes in second, at $233,400.
Average Duties and Tasks
Nurse anesthetists often work in doctor’s offices, dentist’s offices, and hospitals. They closely work with patients who need to receive anesthesia for various medical treatments. Some nurse anesthetists are part of surgical teams and spend most of their time preparing for or in the operating room. Others might work in outpatient facilities, emergency rooms, or intensive care units.
CRNAs are patient advocates and need to make decisions about the patient’s anesthesia during procedures. Watching for possibilities like anesthesia allergies or overdoses is part of the everyday job for a CRNA. Every time a patient goes under anesthesia, the nurse anesthetist evaluates how that patient responds. The ability to stay calm and quickly address problems while a patient is under anesthesia is essential.
As a nurse anesthetist, you’ll also speak with patients about the anesthesia they’re going to receive. Going over the treatment plan and side effects with a good bedside manner is an important part of this nursing job.
During your job as a nurse anesthetist, expect to work long hours in the operating room. While surgeries are typically scheduled Monday through Friday, you may be called in on weekends for emergency surgeries. If you’re looking for a more typical work schedule, look for employment at a private practice. Hospitals often schedule nurse anesthetists in shifts so that someone is on-call 24/7.
To advance in your career as a nurse anesthetist, go into a specialization. Certain areas, like pediatric, dental, or cardiovascular anesthesia offer opportunities for salary bumps. Specializing often requires specific certifications beyond that of a CRNA.
For example, to work as a cardiothoracic nurse anesthetist, you need Life Support certifications, specialized knowledge of cardiothoracic and pulmonary systems, and experience in certain work environments.
Though the hours can be long and the stress can be high, a career as a nurse anesthetist is highly respected in the medical field. Provide essential care to patients undergoing surgical procedures, monitor patient health while under anesthesia, and communicate with both patients and other healthcare providers about anesthesia.