Nurse Anesthetist: Salary Guide And Other Essential Information

Are you curious about becoming a Nurse Anesthetist? Maybe you enjoy helping people; you’ve heard about the great career outlook for this profession; but you don’t really know the ins and outs of what they do or how to get started. This article explores the role of nurse anesthetists as advanced practice nurses and what differentiates them from other health care professionals. It will examine the education requirements, work environment, career outlook and salary of nurse anesthetists.  

Whether you are already a registered nurse or newly exploring this career opportunity, this information can help you discover the rewards and challenges of this unique career path, and ultimately provide information that will help you determine if nurse anesthetics is the best option for your future.

Who Is a Nurse Anesthetist?

While there are more than 50,000 nurse anesthetists currently practicing in the United States, it is believed that the profession initially came about during the Civil War when nurses were required to care for the wounded. Far from the battlefields, today's nurse anesthetists are recognized among the highest paid in nursing, having earned a high degree of professional respect and independence in decision making.

They are medical professionals who administer general or local anesthesia prior to surgical or other medical procedures in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists, and other qualified health care professionals.  

What Exactly Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?

Nurse anesthetists provide anesthesia during surgical and operative procedures and trauma care. This may be as simple as numbing the area of an impacted tooth or putting a patient to sleep for a major surgery. They typically manage patients before, during and after medical procedures. This allows them to properly educate, and prepare the patient on what to expect, monitor patients while under anesthetics, provide stabilization services when necessary, and guide them during recovery.

The medications are typically administered in three ways: inhalation, injection, or taken orally.

What truly sets a nurse anesthetists apart from a registered nurse is decision making. While registered nurses also administer drugs, nurse anesthetists decide on medication choices and dosage. They can work by assisting physicians and other medical professionals, or independently.  

Procedures That Fall under Their Role

  • Physical examination
  • Patient Education
  • Delivering anesthesia during surgery
  • Providing anesthesia for outpatient procedures
  • Pain management
  • Epidurals during childbirth, and necessary 
  • Anesthesia in emergency room procedures
  • Maintain cardiorespiratory status and fluid balance 
  • Using intubation, mechanical ventilation, and pharmacological support to maintain or manage patients’ airways

What Does a Work Day Consist Of?

Physical Requirements

The position is much more physical than you might expect. A typical day will require nurse anesthetists to spend a great deal of time standing. They will be on their feet as they will need to monitor vital signs during procedures and be in an alert position to assist and quickly respond when necessary. In many cases, nurse anesthetists will help lift and move patients before and possibly after sedating them.

They may even bathe patients who require full support care. You will be working around highly technical machines and needles within an intense and sometimes a high pressured environment.  

Work Hours

This career will require flexibility in work hours. It requires some nurse anesthetists to work nighttime shifts, on an on-call basis for emergency situations or during the hours offered by other medical professionals, as they request their services.

Emotional Demands

It is important to understand this career choice can be physically and emotionally demanding. Not only will it will require you to work long hours, but you are working in proximity with people who are experiencing some of the scariest and most emotionally exhausting moments of their life. Helping them cope with their stress and anxiety can inevitably impact your emotional state.  

Education and Requirements of Nurse Anesthetist

The minimum education requirement is a master's degree. However, it is important to note that although admission to a master’s program requires a bachelor’s degree, the undergraduate degree doesn’t have to be in nursing. 


How Long Do You Have to Go to School to Be a Nurse Anesthetist?

It generally takes seven years of higher education to become a nurse anesthetist. The first step in the process is to become a registered nurse (RN). Upon completion, a Bachelor of Science degree will be granted. To be eligible to enroll in a nurse anesthesia master's degree program, it is also necessary to complete at least one year of training in an acute care setting.

Next, you will need to apply to an accredited nurse anesthetists program. Most programs require you to complete 24-36 months of coursework. The coursework is challenging and intensive as expected in most high-level medical professions. Nurse anesthetist programs often require applicants to have maintained an overall GPA and science GPA of 3.0 or better. Upon completion, graduates will earn a minimum of a master's degree, while some (depending on the school) will earn a doctoral degree.

The final step is to pass the National Certification Examination through the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists.

Certifications

After graduating, The National Board of Certification & Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) offers certification by examination that allows nurses to become credentialed as CRNAs.  It is important to understand there is a key difference between licensure and certification.  Licensure allows nurse anesthetists to legally practice in their state of licensure/residence.  On the other hand, certification means that the CRNA is competent to deliver anesthesia in a health care setting;  

Key Skills    

Beyond the educational requirements, there are certain qualities that could make you a great candidate for this profession. Your personal success and happiness in your career choice can be greatly affected when it is a good job fit.  

Take a look at a few important qualities for nurse anesthetists to see if you are a good match:

  • Compassion
  • Effective verbal and written communication
  • Critical thinking and problem-solving skills
  • Detail oriented
  • Well organized
  • Ability to perform under pressure

Where Do They Work?

Due to the autonomous nature of their work, nurse anesthetists find employment in a wide range of work environments and practice settings.  ne can expect to administer anesthesia in various procedures from open-heart to oral surgery and even pain management. Some rural hospitals employ nurse anesthetics as the primary providers of anesthesia rather than anesthesiologists simply because it is more cost-effective. Most times, this makes it possible for these rural areas to provide obstetrical, surgical and trauma stabilization services in their health care facilities.  

Common Work Locations

  • Hospital surgery wards and or maternity wards
  • Physicians offices (plastic surgeons, dentists, ophthalmologists, pain management specialists)
  • Mobile surgery centers
  • Outpatient care centers
  • U.S. military medical facilities
  • Per diem and travel nurses

Nurse Anesthetist Salary

In 2018, the salary range for nurse anesthetists is between  $164,825 and $195,645. In some areas, earnings can exceed $215,000. However, across the United States, the median earnings for nurse anesthetists is $160,250 annually.  

Washington DC reports the highest earnings for average Nurse Anesthetist salaries nationwide at $172,000, while Hawaii is typically sees the lowest average salaries reported at $86,000.

Are Nurse Anesthetist in High Demand

The demand for nurse anesthetists far exceeds the availability of qualified professionals. They expect the need for professionals in this field to increase at a rate of 31% through 2022, which is faster than average for most other careers. This outlook makes this great timing to get on the path to a career that will not only bring financial rewards but increased professional opportunities.

Other Titles for the Profession

Nurse anesthetists answer to many titles.    

  • Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist 
  • Chief Certified Nurse Anesthetist
  • CRNA Anesthesiologist
  • Staff CRNA
  • Supervisor Anesthesia Tech 

What’s Next?

Once you have established yourself as a licensed and certified nurse anesthetist, you may wonder what is next. It may surprise you to learn there are many opportunities to open doors and new challenges. Specializing in a particular field of medicine such as pediatric, cardiovascular, or dental anesthesia is an easy way to see an immediate salary increase. Others pursue doctoral degrees and may transition into various career paths by working as educators or in research.


Conclusion

Becoming a nurse anesthetist will allow you to pursue your dream of helping people, challenge you to make critical decisions under pressure, and enjoy high job security with unlimited career opportunities. If you’re seriously interested in exploring this new career path, there are a few decisions that you must make before taking the next step.    

First, it is important to talk to your family about your decision. While you may have your eyes on the long-term benefits, if you are married or have children, the adjustments will affect their lives too. The financial and time commitments may impact your current lifestyle, but if all goes well, your sacrifice will lead to greater rewards.

You also want to seek scholarships and other opportunities to reduce the expense of this educational opportunity. Your family and bank account will thank you for it. The final step is to identify someone who is working in the profession and schedule a time to interview them about their experiences and career satisfaction. This one step can be invaluable!


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