Become A Nurse Anesthetist

A nurse anesthetist is an advance practice registered nurse who specializes in the administration of anesthesia. Also called a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), nurses who pursue this focused area of practice provide pain management services using the same techniques as an anesthesiologist.

CRNAs hold a master’s degree in nursing plus national certification and must have advanced assessment skills, be able to think quickly, and make independent decisions in rapidly changing and stressful clinical environments. Anesthetists may work in a variety of settings including hospitals, pain clinics, ambulatory surgery centers, and physician’s offices.

Job Duties of a CRNA

Nurse anesthetists work with surgeons, other anesthesiologists, dentists, and many other health care professionals. CRNAs are able to administer all types of anesthesia for different types of patients. Common roles of the nurse anesthetist may encompass:

  • Preoperative to postoperative care
  • Pain control for chronic problems and acute needs, like childbirth
  • Supervision during conscious sedation
  • Instruction of medical students
  • Research on new medications, equipment and patient safety

When caring for patients, anesthetists must possess advanced assessment skills and be able to work directly with other members of the patient care team to provide the best possible outcome. From the beginning of the procedure to the end, it is expected that the CRNA will:

  • Complete a physical assessment of the patient
  • Ensure the patient knows what to expect following the procedure and recovery from anesthesia
  • Prepare and administer the specific types of anesthesia required
  • Maintain anesthesia during surgery
  • Ensure proper recovery from anesthesia until the patient is transferred to recovery
  • Stay with the client throughout the surgery, constantly monitoring essential body functions and modifying the anesthetic to ensure maximum safety and comfort

Education and Training

CRNAs can practice in all 50 states and must meet significant training requirements before graduation. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, CRNAs will complete more than 2,500 clinical hours and administer more than 800 anesthetics before graduation. Nurse anesthetists must put in 24 to 36 months of graduate training in an accredited program, possess at least one year of background in acute care nursing (such as an ICU) and have a passing score on the national certification exam. There are more than 100 nurse anesthetist programs in the United States.

CRNAs will find a variety of career opportunities thanks to high demand and career flexibility. From hospitals to clinics and beyond, there are a variety of settings and schedules to fit any need. Having the highest-paying advanced nursing degree, CRNAs can expect to make between $130,000 and $170,000 or more depending on location, experience and practice setting.

There are currently more than 44,000 nurse anesthetists practicing in the United States, and they safely administer more than 32 million anesthetics to patients each year.

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