Difference Between Anesthesiologist & Nurse Anesthetist

Although nurse anesthetists and anesthesiologists perform some of the same duties, the scope of their duties differs as well as educational requirements. Continue reading to learn about other similarities and differences between these medical professions.

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Comparing Anesthesiologist to Nurse Anesthetist

Anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists are both involved with preparing patients for surgical procedures. They give patients anesthesia and monitor them while they're being operated on. One of the key differences between these professionals is the scope of their duties, since anesthesiologists may also work with patients who are giving birth or who need medical care to manage pain.

Job Title Educational Requirements Median Salary* Job Outlook* (2014-2024)
Anesthesiologist Medical Degree; License $443,859 (2014) 21%
Nurse Anesthetist Master's Degree; License $160,270 (2016) 19%

Source: *U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics

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Responsibilities of Anesthesiologist vs Nurse Anesthetist

Anesthesiologists are medical doctors, while nurse anesthetists are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who have more responsibilities and authority than registered nurses. It is possible for a nurse anesthetist to work independently and assess a patient prior to surgery and determine how much anesthesia to give them. Anesthesiologists may also do this, and both of these professionals may remain with the patient during surgery. Anesthesiologists have a broader patient base, however, and may see patients who do not require surgery. Their skills may be used to develop treatment plans for patients who have been seriously injured or are suffering from pain.


Anesthesiologists are medical doctors who have specialized in anesthesiology. Their training involves earning a medical degree before completing residency and internship requirements in their specialization area. They must also have a valid medical license to practice. Anesthesiologists primarily work in hospitals and are primarily involved with the care of patients who require surgery. They can work varying shifts and may also work on holidays and weekends.

Job responsibilities of an anesthesiologist include:

  • Give patients anesthetics
  • Provide pain management to patients in intensive care
  • Medicate women in labor
  • Monitor patients during surgery
  • Assess patients after surgery

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists are licensed nurses who have earned a master's degree in this area of specialization. They are also required to have national certification. They can work in hospitals, clinics or doctors' offices. Their primary responsibility is to safely give patients anesthesia before procedures, and they may work under the supervision of an anesthesiologist while performing their duties, or they may work independently.

Job responsibilities of a nurse anesthetist include:

  • Monitor patients' vital signs during surgery
  • Prepare equipment and administer drugs
  • Determine how to safely anesthetize the patient
  • Update patient records
  • Assist physicians and surgeons

Related Careers

If you're considering a career as an anesthesiologist, you may also be interested in becoming a physical therapist, since physical therapists also treat patients who need help reducing and managing pain. Alternatively, if you're interested in being a nurse anesthetist you might also be interested in being a surgeon's assistant, since they also provide medical care for patients during surgical procedures.

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