Nurse Anesthetist

A nurse anesthetist is a specialist who administers anesthesia and pain meds to patients and monitors their response. Learn about job duties, employment outlook, salary info and professional degree requirements.

Is a Career as a Nurse Anesthetist for Me?

Career Overview

As a nurse anesthetist, you'd be an advanced practice registered nurse with a graduate degree, and your job title would be Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Your job would be to administer anesthetics to control patient pain before, during and after surgery, trauma treatment, childbirth and other medical procedures.

Your duties could include monitoring an anesthetized patient's vital signs during an operation and reacting to emergencies that might arise. You might relay information about the patient's status to surgeons and other medical professionals. You could also monitor a patient's awakening from anesthetics. Nurse anesthetists work in hospitals and clinics, as well as physician and dentist offices. There are also opportunities in the military.

The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) reported in 2011 that CRNAs administer more than 32 million anesthetics to patients yearly in the United States (www.aana.com). At most hospitals in rural America, CRNAs are the only providers of anesthetics. Demand for nurse anesthetists could increase at medical facilities in general since they provide a lower-cost alternative to anesthesiologists, who are medical doctors.

Employment Information

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), jobs for registered nurses (RNs) are projected to grow 19% between 2012 and 2022, which is faster than the average for all occupations (www.bls.gov). In February 2014, PayScale.com reported a salary range between $81,129 and $171,324 for most CRNAs.

How Can I Become a Nurse Anesthetist?

Education

To launch a career as a CRNA, you must have at least a bachelor's degree in nursing or another relevant major, along with a valid license to work as an RN. You'll also need at least one year of critical care work experience as an RN to enroll in a nurse anesthetist educational program; some programs require two years of acute care work.

Then, you must earn at least a master's degree from an accredited nurse anesthetist program to work in the profession. Nurse anesthetist programs take 24 to 36 months to complete. During that time, you'll learn anesthetic techniques and gain clinical experience at hospitals. Coursework typically includes biochemistry, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, technology topics and physics. After graduating and passing a national certification test given by the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists, you can start working as a CRNA.

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