What Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?

A nurse anesthetist is a registered nurse who works closely with doctors to administer and monitor a patient's anesthesia for medical procedures. If you enjoy helping people, have a keen eye for detail, and are interested in a demanding but rewarding career, you might consider becoming a nurse anesthetist. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Job Definition

A nurse anesthetist is an advanced practice nurse who specializes in administering anesthetics to patients and coordinating their care with other medical professionals. He or she may remain with a patient from pre-operative procedures through surgery and into recovery, ensuring that a patient is as safe and comfortable as possible. As a nurse anesthetist, you may work in several different medical settings, such as surgery clinics, dental clinics, or hospital operating rooms. As a result, the types of patients you care for might vary widely and include trauma victims, obstetrics patients, surgery patients, and patients managing chronic pain problems.

Important Facts About Nurse Anesthetists

Job Outlook (2014-2024) 19% growth
Key Skills Critical thinking, empathy, organization, leadership, clear communication, attention to detail, time management, social nuance
Work Environment Physicians' offices, outpatient care centers, hospitals, educational services
Similar Occupations Audiologists; occupational therapists; physical therapists; physician assistants; physicians and surgeons; registered nurses; speech-language pathologists

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Education and Professional Experience

In order to become a nurse anesthetist, you must first complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from an accredited school and pass state licensing to become a registered nurse (RN). After a year of professional experience as an RN working in acute medical care - for example in a hospital emergency room or intensive care units - you may apply to earn a Master's of Nursing in Anesthesia. You may expect to complete this degree within 24-36 months (www.aana.com).

Program Coursework

As a graduate student, you will complete courses in pharmacology, physiology, pathology, and anatomy. You will also gain practical experience in managing a patient's anesthetic medication and fluids during surgery and monitoring his or her vital signs and adjusting medication as needed. Other training will prepare you to provide emergency cardiac assistance or airway management and to advise patients on post-anesthesia care. Many programs also include research as part of the requirements. If you have an interest in pursuing advanced research, many programs include an option to write a thesis.

Certification Information

Once you complete your education, you must pass your state certification exam to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Exams consist of several question formats, including multiple-choice, calculations, drag-and-drop terms and graphic diagrams (www.nbcrna.com). Once certified, a nurse anesthetist must earn continuing education credits regularly and re-certify every two years.

Career Outlook and Salary Information

Because of their extensive education and industry demand, many nurse anesthetists enjoy a high salary and increased level of professional independence. Those nurses employed in under-served or rural areas can sometimes be the sole providers of anesthetic care. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), employment of registered nurses in general was expected to increase faster than average during the 2014-2024 decade (www.bls.gov). Due to the high level of expertise and education required of CRNAs, salaries tend to be among the highest of RN positions: PayScale.com reported that in September 2015, the median annual salary of a nurse anesthetist was $133,341.

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