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: $196,640 HI Average Annual Salary in AK: $184,040 AK Average Annual Salary in FL: $172,500 FL Average Annual Salary in NH: $160,370 NH Average Annual Salary in MI: $188,580 MI Average Annual Salary in VT: $ VT Average Annual Salary in ME: $159,480 ME Average Annual Salary in RI: $ RI Average Annual Salary in NY: $181,340 NY Average Annual Salary in PA: $162,980 PA Average Annual Salary in NJ: N/A NJ Average Annual Salary in DE: $174,590 DE Average Annual Salary in MD: $169,160 MD Average Annual Salary in VA: $193,410 VA Average Annual Salary in WV: $186,870 WV Average Annual Salary in OH: $159,000 OH Average Annual Salary in IN: $161,570 IN Average Annual Salary in IL: $164,790 IL Average Annual Salary in CT: $167,920 CT Average Annual Salary in WI: $191,730 WI Average Annual Salary in NC: $171,040 NC Average Annual Salary in MA: $193,140 MA Average Annual Salary in TN: $147,180 TN Average Annual Salary in AR: $161,690 AR Average Annual Salary in MO: $151,680 MO Average Annual Salary in GA: $145,210 GA Average Annual Salary in SC: $160,550 SC Average Annual Salary in KY: $185,040 KY Average Annual Salary in AL: $166,950 AL Average Annual Salary in LA: $147,090 LA Average Annual Salary in MS: $159,430 MS Average Annual Salary in IA: $198,140 IA Average Annual Salary in MN: $180,430 MN Average Annual Salary in OK: $165,490 OK Average Annual Salary in TX: $152,510 TX Average Annual Salary in NM: $150,860 NM Average Annual Salary in KS: $163,670 KS Average Annual Salary in NE: $186,250 NE Average Annual Salary in SD: $184,810 SD Average Annual Salary in ND: $194,570 ND Average Annual Salary in WY: $250,610 WY Average Annual Salary in MT: $252,460 MT Average Annual Salary in CO: $152,240 CO Average Annual Salary in ID: $145,910 ID Average Annual Salary in UT: $156,960 UT Average Annual Salary in AZ: $139,500 AZ Average Annual Salary in NV: $196,730 NV Average Annual Salary in OR: $207,480 OR Average Annual Salary in WA: $194,080 WA Average Annual Salary in CA: $217,230 CA

  • Median Hourly Wage: $81.47
  • Mean Salary: $169,450

Source: Data taken from Payscale and The Bureau of Labor Statistics. Accessed: July 2018.

Employment of Nurse Anesthetists

Industries With the Highest Levels of Employment for Nurse Anesthetists

Industry Employment Percent of Industry Employment Annual Mean Wage
Offices of Physicians 22,720 0.89 $162,430
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 12,820 0.23 $184,590
Outpatient Care Centers 1,990 0.23 $194,440
Offices of Other Health Practitioners 1,750 0.20 $159,230
Colleges, Universities, and Professional Schools 1,140 0.04 $148,210
Source: BLS, 2017

Industries With the Highest Concentration of Employment for Nurse Anesthetists

Industry Employment Percent of Industry Employment Annual Mean Wage
Offices of Physicians 22,720 0.89 $162,430
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals 12,820 0.23 $184,590
Outpatient Care Centers 1,990 0.23 $194,440
Offices of Other Health Practitioners 1,750 0.20 $159,230
Federal Executive Branch 1,000 0.05 $168,580
Source: BLS, 2017

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Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Resources

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Nurse Anesthetist Programs

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