Nursing is the largest healthcare occupation with over 2.7 million registered nurses (RNs) currently employed in the United States. Registered nurses with advanced educations, such as Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) degrees, can enjoy several professional opportunities, particularly as healthcare specialties generate higher demand.
In fact, many professionals seeking to position themselves for advanced nurse specialties or leadership positions are returning to school to obtain their BSNs and MSNs. Some also choose to enter specialty fields, which may require additional education and certification. One nursing specialty growing in job demand is the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).
Among other duties, CRNAs administer anesthesia to patients. They can work in a variety of healthcare settings, including operating rooms, dentist’s and podiatrist’s offices, birthing centers, maternity wards and plastic surgery centers.
CRNAs often work under the direction of surgeons and collaborate with the operating room staff. They are responsible for knowing a patient’s history and condition, and how he or she should respond to anesthetics.
Specific CRNA duties and responsibilities may include:
To become a CRNA, a registered nurse must first complete a nurse anesthesia program, which awards a master’s degree and typically takes two to three years to complete. Admissions criteria include a BSN degree and at least one year of acute care nursing experience. In addition to the BSN, some programs accept other health-related bachelor’s degrees. Upon graduation, prospective CRNAs must pass a national certification exam before they can begin practice. To maintain certification, CRNAs must complete at least 40 hours of continuing education every two years.
Nurse anesthetists are highly trained and skilled medical professionals responsible for patient safety during surgical procedures. They must have sharp concentration and focus, along with the ability to stay calm under stressful conditions. The ability to solve complex problems is typically a valued skill for CRNAs, as are critical-thinking and the ability to react quickly when a patient’s condition changes.
CRNAs must be able to communicate clearly and effectively with surgeons and the surgical support team, as well as with patients and their families. A calm and reassuring manner is one way to inspire trust in patients, who may be apprehensive about surgery, as well as the surgical team.
According to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Outlook Handbook, CRNA's earned an average annual salary of $160,270 in 2016. On average, the lowest 10% of certified registered nurse anesthetists earned $107,960, while the highest 10% earned more than $189,880 yearly.
Because salary potential may vary depending on location, education, employer, experience and other factors, prospective job candidates are encouraged to conduct independent research to determine earning potential.
CRNAs can practice in many different healthcare settings, from surgery centers to birthing centers, offices of plastic surgeons and podiatrists, to public health clinics and military hospitals. Due to the nature of anesthesia, they are highly responsible for patient safety and their work can be stressful. Because of their high degree of education and skill, CRNAs work with autonomy and often receive professional respect.
Becoming a CRNA takes dedication to the healthcare field and to your own education. If you are ready to undertake the education and clinical practice required, this rewarding and challenging career could be a great fit for you.