What Is A Nurse Anesthetist?

A nurse anesthetist is a certified registered nurse who works in collaboration with anesthesiologists, surgeons, dentists, and other healthcare professionals.

Their role is to ensure the safe administration of anesthesia and, like nurse practitioners, they may work with or without the supervision of a doctor.

The main responsibilities of a nurse anesthetist include the management of pain, as well as assistance with stabilization services and patient recovery monitoring, either for diagnostic or therapeutic procedures or throughout the phases of surgery.

Due to their advanced training and heavyweight responsibilities, nurse anesthetists are among the best-compensated professionals in the nursing field. Thus, many aspiring nurses would like to consider this career path.

What Does A Nurse Anesthetist Do?

According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, nurse anesthetists are responsible for administering over 40 million anesthetics each year in the U.S.

While they might be supervised by a doctor, nurse anesthetists are rather independent professionals with direct reimbursement rights.

According to the same association, nurse anesthetists have the following responsibilities:

  • Administering anesthesia during surgical or medical procedures.
  • Provide counseling and care before, during, and after anesthesia.
  • Perform epidural, spinal, or nerve block anesthesia.
  • Monitor vital signs during medical procedures.
  • Discuss any contradictions or side effects of anesthesia with the patients or their caregivers.
  • Ensure the safe provision of pain management by examining the patient’s history of illnesses or allergies.

How Much Does A Nurse Anesthetist Earn?

If financial security is one of the reasons why you want to become a nurse, know that nurse anesthetists have the highest salaries in the nursing career.

With a mean annual wage of $174,790 (over $100,000 more than the mean annual wage of a registered nurse) and plenty of job possibilities, becoming a CRNA is truly worth it.

According to the BLS statistics, the outpatient care centers pay the highest wages, $93.54 per hour on average. General medical and surgical hospitals pay hourly mean wages of $89.90, while the lowest paying positions are at colleges and universities, where you can expect an hourly mean wage of $77.33.

How  Can You Become A Nurse Anesthetist?

Although all nurses are in high demand all over the country, the need for certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) is even higher. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the demand for these professionals will rise by 31% in the next decade.  

Before asking yourself how to become a nurse anesthetist, though, you should understand what are the implications of this profession.

As an advanced practice nurse, your role is to evaluate patients before administering anesthesia and follow-up on patient recovery after it.

You will usually partner with doctors in hospitals, private practices, or military settings, but in some cases, such as in remote rural areas, you might be the sole anesthesia provider. Critical thinking and the ability to stay calm under pressure are, therefore, a must.

Due to the advanced formal education and training, you’ll even be able to practice autonomously, depending on your state’s level of practice authority.

With this in mind, if you’re still ready to become a CRNA, know that you’re looking forward to a multi-step process that may take up to 8 years to complete.

The qualifications required to be admitted into a CRNA program include a registered nurse license and acute care clinical experience.

  1. Earn your BSc in Nursing: Because all certified registered nurse anesthetists are required to hold a master’s degree, the first step is to earn your BSN. Depending on your educational level, it may take two years to earn it, if you already hold an associate’s degree. Otherwise, the traditional route is usually completed in four years.
  2. Obtain your registered nurse license: Once you’ve earned your qualification, it’s time to obtain a registered nurse license. The license usually implies passing an examination in order to obtain your license.
  3. Get a job in an acute care environment: Look up the CRNA program you want to follow and find out what qualifies as acute care for them. Then, do your best to get a job in that field. Most programs will require at least a year of experience in such a setting. Although each program may define acute care differently, it usually means working in an emergency room, ICU, or coronary care unit.
  4. Complete an approved CRNA course: When you’ve met all the requirements of the program you want to complete, file an application. Depending on each school, it may take between two and three years to complete a certified registered nurse anesthetist course that implies classwork and hands-on clinical experience.
  5. Get licensed as CRNA: The last step is to get your license. Typically, it is the same body that licensed you as a registered nurse that will issue your certified registered nurse anesthetist license, but you’ll have to sit and pass the National Certification Examination.  

As you can see, it may take between six and eight years to become a nurse anesthetist. Besides the education requirements, you also need a minimum of acute care clinical experience working as a registered nurse.

Can You Become A Nurse Anesthetist Online?

Online learning opens up many opportunities, as you won’t have to attend courses in person. However, due to the nature of this discipline, there are few schools that offer online nurse anesthetist programs.

Also, you shouldn’t take this decision lightly. Those schools who offer online programs will still require you to attend clinical practice in an approved setting. However, it could be harder to find a hospital to carry on your clinical practice duties. Most schools also require you to attend the exams in person.

Nevertheless, an online program could be an excellent choice if you don’t have the possibility to enroll in a full-time program or want to work part-time while studying.

Is It Worth To Become A Nurse Anesthetist?

Being a nurse anesthetist means having a privileged role. You’ll perform your job mostly independently and take home a good monthly pay. The path, however, is lengthy and challenging.

Whether it’s worth it or not, therefore, is down to you.

What do you say? Would you like to become a nurse anesthetist?

Tell us in a comment below; we’d love to hear from you.

And if you know someone else who’s considering this career, share this article with your friends.

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