What Is Nurse Anesthesiology?

Registered nurses who want to work in an advanced specialty area may want to consider nurse anesthesiology. A nurse anesthesiologist, otherwise known as a nurse anesthetist, administers local or general anesthesia to patients undergoing medical procedures or surgery. To be qualified for this position, you're required to advance your education and seek appropriate certification. Schools offering Anesthesia Technology degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

Nurse Anesthesiology Defined

Like anesthesiologists, nurse anesthetists give patients anesthetic medications to prepare them for medical procedures, as well as monitor patients who are under anesthesia or coming out of anesthesia. It's your job to make sure patients are pain-free and comfortable. Your work allows doctors to perform invasive or uncomfortable procedures because some medications you administer help keep patients unconscious and unaware of what is happening.

While some states don't require that you be under the direct supervision of a doctor, others do. Due to the high level of responsibility and advanced skills used in this career, you'll need advanced education and training. You'll also need to seek certification as a nurse anesthetist.

You may work in a variety of medical settings, such as hospitals, clinics and private offices. There may be the opportunity to specialize within the field. Dentistry and obstetrics are two common specialty areas.

Important Facts About Nurse Anesthesiologists

Job Outlook (2016-2026) 16% growth (much faster than average)
Median Salary (2018) $167,950
Similar Occupations Nurse Practitioner, Nurse Midwife
Work Environment Surgical suite, delivery room

Source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Duties

Your job duties as a nurse anesthetist may include:

  • Conducting physical assessments of patients
  • Explaining procedures to patients
  • Administering medications and anesthesia
  • Sterilizing equipment
  • Monitoring patients who are under anesthesia
  • Providing postoperative care
  • Recording patient data

Career Preparation

Your first step in preparing for a career as a nurse anesthetist is to become a registered nurse (RN). This requires completion of a nursing program and acquisition of your RN license. After you have become an RN and acquired some work experience, you need to complete a graduate program in nurse anesthesiology.

Typically, to enter a graduate program, you need to have a bachelor's degree, hold a current RN license, submit Graduate Record Examination (GRE) scores, maintain current CPR certification and have documented nursing experience. You can find both master's and doctoral degree programs where you'll study the principles of anesthesia, including the medications and techniques used. You'll gain specialized knowledge in the field and build your skills to allow you to perform anesthetic procedures correctly and safely.


After completing a graduate program, you can pursue certification, which is required to work in this field. The National Board on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) administers the certification exam, which, upon passing, results in the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) designation (www.nbcrna.com). To qualify to sit for the CRNA exam, you must hold an active RN license, be a graduate of a nurse anesthesiology program and submit the proper documentation along with your application.

The exam will test your knowledge in multiple areas associated with nurse anesthesiology. This is a computerized test that adapts to you, meaning the questions that you get are based upon your answers to previous questions. You'll answer anywhere from 100-170 questions, covering topics including the following:

  • Anatomy
  • Pharmacology
  • Medicine delivery systems
  • Monitoring devices
  • Patient preparation
  • Airway management
  • Pain management
  • Post-anesthesia care
  • Professional issues
  • Patient safety

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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