What Is a CRNA?
A CRNA, or certified registered nurse anesthetist, is an advanced practice nurse. CRNAs possess graduate degrees in nursing and advanced certification in their field. There are currently more than 49,000 practitioners registered in the United States. If you choose to become a nurse anesthetist, you will collaborate closely with medical doctors in order to provide anesthesia care for patients before, during, and after surgery.
How Much Does a Nurse Anesthetist Make?
Nurse anesthetists, overall, are well-compensated for their work. The median salary nationwide for CRNAs in 2017 is $165,120*. This is significantly higher than the average for other advanced practice nurses, who boast a median salary of $103,880*.
The type of setting can influence the salary of nurse anesthetists. CRNAs practicing in outpatient care centers can earn the highest salaries, with a mean salary of $194,440*.Those practicing in hospitals are also well-compensated, at $184,590*. A specialty area in obstetrical anesthesia can also be associated with higher salaries**. The lowest-paid practice locations are colleges and universities, where the mean salary is $148,210*.
Salaries also differ by state. The highest paid nurse anesthetists practice in Montana, with a mean yearly wage of $242,460*. Mean salaries for nurse anesthetists are the lowest in Arizona, at $139,500*. If you are looking to practice in a city, you might consider locating your nurse anesthesia practice in San Francisco, where the mean wage is $243,490*. If you prefer a rural setting, think about the Piedmont region of North Carolina, with mean wages of $190,830*.
Undertaking leadership roles within nurse anesthesia can increase your salary. A chief nurse anesthetist can expect a median income of $171,127**.
CRNA Starting Salary
Entry-level registered nurse anesthetists command a high starting salary. The median salary for new professionals in 2018 was $131,236**. Experienced nurse anesthetists can expect a higher rate of pay.
How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist
If you decide to become a certified nurse anesthetist, there are several steps to follow.
- Your first step is to become a registered nurse. All nurses who go on to become a CRNA must complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and pass the NCLEX, the national exam to become a RN.
- After becoming a registered nurse, you should seek employment in order to gain at least one year's experience in clinical nursing, beyond the experience you obtained in your clinical coursework.
- You should earn specific nursing certifications necessary for your graduate program of choice. Some certifications, such as the Advanced Cardiac Life Support certificate, are required by many graduate programs.
- You will then apply for graduate programs in nurse anesthesia, where you have the choice between a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP). Beginning January 2022, all graduate degrees in accredited nurse anesthesia programs will be at the DNP level. You will take advanced courses in physiology, pharmacology, and principles of nursing care, in addition to serving clinical rotations. Graduate programs at either the master's or doctoral level in nurse anesthesia typically take two to three years to complete.
Nurse anesthetists work in a range of practice settings, including hospital surgical floors, emergency rooms, and outpatient clinics. CRNAs are typically the sole providers of anesthesia in rural hospitals, and also provide anesthesia services for the U.S. military.
What Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?
Nurse anesthetists play an important role in health care, providing anesthesia care during surgeries and pain relief during other medical procedures.
Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Job Description
As a CRNA, you would be a vital part of the medical team and play an especially important role in surgery. Before surgery, you would meet with patients to determine their medical history and choose, in consultation with the surgeon, the most appropriate form of anesthesia. The registered nurse anesthetist educates the patient on the safety of anesthesia and any pre-operative requirements. Immediately before a surgery, you would administer the appropriate anesthesia, and remain with the patient during the surgery to monitor the patient and make any necessary adjustments to the anesthesia. After surgery, you would monitor the patient to make sure he or she recovers appropriately from the anesthesia.
In addition to providing anesthesia during surgery, there are other options for practice as a CRNA. Some certified registered nurse anesthetists help women in labor by providing epidurals or other pain relief. CRNAs may also work for pain management clinics, working with patients who suffer with chronic pain.
Upon graduating from an accredited program, you will be qualified to sit for the National Certification Exam (NCE) offered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). To sit for the NCE, you must hold a RN license and have completed an accredited graduate program in nurse anesthesia within the last two years. You must also have completed a minimum number of clinical hours. The exam is a computerized assessment of at least 100 questions, and content includes basic sciences, anesthesia implements, general principles of anesthesia, and anesthesia for surgery and special populations. The exam may be taken year-round at testing centers and the 2018 fee was $725.
CRNA recertification requirements must be fulfilled in order to continue to practice as a nurse anesthetist. Recertification requires the nurse anesthetist to take continuing education classes in four-year cycles. Some classes must be taken through programs offered by the American Association for Nurse Anesthetists. Other credits may be satisfied through professional activities, such as grand rounds, which are lectures and presentations sponsored by hospitals to present advances in research and clinical care. Nurse anesthetists must check in with the NBCRNA every two years to validate licensure, confirm continuing practice, and to review progress for recertification. In addition, as a CRNA, you would need to sit for an examination of your continued professional knowledge of nurse anesthesia practices, called the Continued Professional Certification (CPC) Assessment. This exam tests your knowledge of the four main domains of nurse anesthesia practice, including airway management, pharmacology, physiology, and equipment, and must be taken once every eight years, at the completion of two four-year cycles.
Nurse Anesthetist Job Outlook
The demand for nurse anesthetists, as for other advanced practice nurses, continues to rise. Positions for CRNAs will grow by 16% from 2016-2026**, and CRNAs are in high demand throughout the country. Nurse anesthetists can find employment in hospital surgical centers, delivery wards, pain management clinics, and outpatient surgical centers. If you aspire to this profession, you will likely find an excellent market for your services.
*U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), 2017