What is it REALLY Like Being a Nurse Anesthetist?

What is a nurse anesthetist

Helping others has always been a high priority for you, but you’d be lying if you said you weren’t concerned with the compensation. And yes, you want job security, but you’re still itching for the challenge of making your own decisions and having the authority of expertise.

If this is you, then it’s time to consider a career as a nurse anesthetist (CRNA). Whether you’re already working towards a nursing degree or just exploring the field, get the scoop on this specialty straight from a CRNA’s professional perspective. This insider insight can help you determine if this is the right career path for you!

What does a nurse anesthetist actually do?

Nurse anesthetists work closely with physicians to provide patients with anesthesia and related care before, during and after surgeries and procedures. The anesthesia may be a general anesthetic, putting the patient to sleep, or a local anesthetic, which numbs a specific area of the body.

The CRNA is responsible for evaluating the patient to help determine the best anesthetic plan for them, according to Nick Angelis, CRNA and author. The next step is to prepare the room with the right equipment for during the surgery or procedure and whatever follows. Then they administer the anesthetic to the patient and monitor his or her vitals throughout the procedure.

How is the CRNA's role different from an RN?

“The main difference is decision making,” says Angelis. As a CRNA, you’ll have to make decisions on the medications and dosages of drugs given to a patient. These are powerful drugs that – if administered incorrectly – could potentially be deadly.

FACT: The median annual salary for nurse anesthetists in 2014 was $153,780.

Angelis explains that although you’ll work closely with physicians, your input carries a lot of weight and responsibility in these situations. RNs may administer drugs to their patients but they are not the decision-makers behind the drug or dosage.

Another difference noted by Angelis is in the specialized responsibilities that are included in a CRNA’s role. He says you’ll be expected to master technical skills such as arterial line placement, tracheal intubation, spinals and epidurals.

These duties may seem daunting, but don’t let them intimidate you. Know that you will be properly trained to take on these tasks.

What does it take to become a nurse anesthetist?

Speaking of training, you’ll need to be qualified in order to become a CRNA. This shouldn’t surprise you after learning about the vital role these professionals play in the healthcare system.

Let’s take a look at some of the qualifications you’ll have to meet before assuming this role.

Education & training

If you’re studying to be a registered nurse, the good news is you’re already on your way to becoming a CRNA, according to the U.S. Department of Labor (DOL). After becoming an RN, the next step is to acquire some clinical experience. Next comes the master’s degree.

To become a CRNA, you’ll need to complete a master’s program. You’ll also likely be required to become certified through the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). 

Important skills & qualities

It comes as no surprise that qualities like compassion and empathy are helpful in any nursing career, but you may be surprised to learn that humility helps as well.

“Since learning many of these skills and techniques involves intense scrutiny from practicing CRNAs, staying humble and pleasant makes it easier,” says Angelis.

As a CRNA, you will act as both a compassionate care-giver and a technical expert. To be successful you’ll need to be organized, detail-oriented and employ excellent critical thinking skills on the spot.

“Although my personality is laid back, at work I know where all of my equipment and drugs are and can respond to an emergency or a change in patient status instantly,” says Angelis. This ability to think and work under pressure is vital.

What does becoming a CRNA mean for my future?

You know what the career is all about and the steps you take to get there, but what you really want to know is if the career will provide the lifestyle you want for your future.

The median annual wage for nurse anesthetists in 2014 was $153,780, as reported by the DOL. This makes it one of the highest earning nursing specialties you could pursue. You can rest assured that you will be well-compensated for the extra education and added responsibility associated with this position.

What’s more is that CRNA career opportunities are on the rise. The DOL expects jobs in this field to increase at a faster-than-average rate of 22 percent through 2022. This optimistic outlook and exciting earning potential make it a perfect career path for ambitious nurses.

Take the first step

Can you picture yourself as a nurse anesthetist? If so, don’t waste any time taking the first step toward your future career. Check out our 4-Step Guide to Becoming a Registered Nurse, to learn how you can start acquiring the experience and credentials you’ll need to pursue this profession!

Megan Ruesink

Megan is a freelance writer for Collegis education who writes student-focused articles on behalf of Rasmussen College. She hopes to engage and intrigue current and potential students.


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This piece of ad content was created by Rasmussen College to support its educational programs. Rasmussen College may not prepare students for all positions featured within this content. Please visit www.rasmussen.edu/degrees for a list of programs offered. External links provided on rasmussen.edu are for reference only. Rasmussen College does not guarantee, approve, control, or specifically endorse the information or products available on websites linked to, and is not endorsed by website owners, authors and/or organizations referenced. Rasmussen College is a regionally accredited private college and Public Benefit Corporation.

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