Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Nurse anesthetists are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) responsible for administering anesthesia to patients. This practice specialty is unique among nursing careers, as the advanced training required for the job puts nurse anesthetists on a level similar to physicians. Nurse anesthetists work independently, often serving as the sole anesthetist within a practice or facility. To become a nurse anesthetist, nursing professionals must earn a baccalaureate degree, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degree and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) credentials. Training requirements also call for a minimum of one year of experience in an acute care or ICU setting.

What Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?

Nurse anesthetists provide pain management in a variety of clinical settings, often treating surgical patients in hospitals. Additionally, these nurses tend to obstetric patients in labor and delivery, patients with chronic pain or trauma pain, dental patients or outpatients undergoing procedures in clinics offering specialty services like plastic surgery or podiatry. CRNAs are particularly needed in rural areas, where qualified physicians are often in short supply. In many states, they perform virtually all anesthetic administration in sparsely populated areas.

Nurse anesthetists care for patients before, during and after procedures. In most cases, patient care begins with a meeting where the patient’s medications, health status and expectations for the procedure are reviewed. The CRNA determines the appropriate analgesics and administers the correct dosage during the procedure, monitoring the patient’s vital signs continuously. Care ends when the patient has completely recovered from the effects of anesthesia.

Analgesics are delivered via gas, intravenous liquids or oral medication. Typical cases for CRNAs might include general anesthesia, twilight sleep for minor procedures, localized pain relief for outpatient procedures or pain management procedures for chronic pain or trauma patients. Some nurse anesthetists also manage therapy regimens for chronic pain patients.

Potential Work Settings

  • Hospitals
  • Pain clinics
  • Trauma centers
  • Women’s hospitals
  • Surgical centers
  • Podiatry clinics
  • Plastic surgery clinics
  • Dental clinics

What Does It Take to Become a Nurse Anesthetist?

Skills

Self-directed

Nurse anesthetists work independently, often in private practice or as the sole anesthetist at a large medical facility. Professionals must be confident in their abilities to relieve patients’ pain without placing them in danger. An effective CRNA is not only an expert in pain-relieving medications and therapies, but is comfortable administering powerful drugs.

Interpersonal communication

Nurse anesthetists spend their days in contact with patients, families, physicians and medical support teams. Each of these people have different degrees of medical knowledge and familiarity with the clinical environment; the ability to communicate effectively with all of them is essential to success.

Good physical health

CRNAs work long hours on their feet, with often unpredictable schedules. Developing safe, effective treatment plans and seeing patients through to recovery can be strenuous work, especially in situations where the CRNA performs most of the anesthesia. Physical stamina and a healthy lifestyle are critical.

Focus

After anesthesia has been administered and the procedure is underway, the CRNA’s job is to monitor the patient and ensure a pain-free experience. Surgical procedures can be lengthy, and the CRNA must be constantly attuned to the patient’s vital signs, no matter how tedious the atmosphere.

Technical aptitude

Medical technology is constantly evolving, and this field is no exception. Aspiring CRNAs should be comfortable using sophisticated machinery and able to train on new equipment as necessary.

Attention to detail

Different procedures call for different drug protocols, and each patient reacts differently to anesthesia. As dosages are calculated, CRNAs must consider patient variables that can impact the effects of treatment, including weight, age, prior surgical history, other medications or drinking habits.

Perception

Each patient responds to pain differently; one person’s gentle sigh could be another’s howl of agony. It’s important for CRNAs to understand all possible indications of discomfort, including non-verbal cues. Taking any relevant social, cultural or language elements into consideration can help you alleviate the pain of a suffering patient.

Nurse Anesthetist Information and Job Outlook

How much do nurse anesthetists make?

$117,410+$143,550+$169,690+$195,820+
Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA): Average Salary by State This map presents average annual salary for the occupation Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) in each state in the U.S. Average Annual Salary in HI: $ HI Average Annual Salary in AK: $147,160 AK Average Annual Salary in FL: $143,870 FL Average Annual Salary in NH: $222,060 NH Average Annual Salary in MI: $171,520 MI Average Annual Salary in VT: $ VT Average Annual Salary in ME: $170,830 ME Average Annual Salary in RI: $ RI Average Annual Salary in NY: $158,970 NY Average Annual Salary in PA: $172,890 PA Average Annual Salary in NJ: $162,680 NJ Average Annual Salary in DE: $180,560 DE Average Annual Salary in MD: $168,210 MD Average Annual Salary in VA: $171,160 VA Average Annual Salary in WV: $169,190 WV Average Annual Salary in OH: $152,310 OH Average Annual Salary in IN: $179,480 IN Average Annual Salary in IL: $141,970 IL Average Annual Salary in CT: $195,690 CT Average Annual Salary in WI: $214,150 WI Average Annual Salary in NC: $155,380 NC Average Annual Salary in MA: $136,290 MA Average Annual Salary in TN: $151,630 TN Average Annual Salary in AR: $154,710 AR Average Annual Salary in MO: $151,330 MO Average Annual Salary in GA: $137,940 GA Average Annual Salary in SC: $152,450 SC Average Annual Salary in KY: $147,910 KY Average Annual Salary in AL: $151,390 AL Average Annual Salary in LA: $140,970 LA Average Annual Salary in MS: $159,880 MS Average Annual Salary in IA: $176,000 IA Average Annual Salary in MN: $161,790 MN Average Annual Salary in OK: $161,690 OK Average Annual Salary in TX: $161,740 TX Average Annual Salary in NM: $130,460 NM Average Annual Salary in KS: $141,060 KS Average Annual Salary in NE: $150,830 NE Average Annual Salary in SD: $167,770 SD Average Annual Salary in ND: $174,360 ND Average Annual Salary in WY: $192,500 WY Average Annual Salary in MT: $156,110 MT Average Annual Salary in CO: $170,600 CO Average Annual Salary in ID: $171,340 ID Average Annual Salary in UT: $152,520 UT Average Annual Salary in AZ: $117,510 AZ Average Annual Salary in NV: $216,930 NV Average Annual Salary in OR: $162,500 OR Average Annual Salary in WA: $163,280 WA Average Annual Salary in CA: $168,620 CA

  • Median Hourly Wage: $69.00
  • Mean Salary: $133,341

Source: Data taken from Payscale and The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed: December 2015.

Nurses Are in Demand

2M 3M 4M 2010 2015 2020 2.74 Million Jobs 3.45 Million Jobs
  • 712,000 New Jobs
  • 495,500 Replacement Jobs
  • 10.2 Million by 2020
  • 26% More Nursing Jobs Expected to Be Created between 2010 and 2020

Source: Data taken from The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed: December 2015.

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Nurse Anesthetist Programs

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