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A Nurse Anesthetist is also known as Anesthesia Service, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) or similar titles denoting they are a registered nurse with anesthesia certification. It is related to Nurse Midwives and Nurse Practitioners because you must obtain a master’s degree and further certification after gaining experience as a Registered Nurse.

Job Description

Nurse Anesthetists are advanced registered nurses. These nurses have taken extra time to be registered to administer anesthesia, help patients recover after anesthesia, and may assist doctors and surgeons more directly. It is a specialization of an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN). APRN’s are nurses who have earned a master’s degree and considered leaders. This position is often a senior level.

Nurse Anesthetists often work with their patients to help them understand what their experience will be like while under anesthesia. They are responsible for monitoring patients during a surgery while they are under anesthesia, keeping track of all vital signs. 

These professionals may also complete Registered Nurse duties such as caring for patients, scheduling shifts, and providing assistance to doctors.

Rewarding Aspects of Career
  • Helping people and making a difference in their lives
  • Creating patient relationships
  • Easy to find new hospitals to work with
  • Professional autonomy – being able to have say in when and how much you work
  • Seen as a leader in their work community
$174,790
Projected Employment

The APRN field, which includes Nurse Anesthetists, is expected to grow 26 percent by 2028. Due to the elderly population increasing, as well as older nurses retiring, there will be a greater need for this position. There is especially a need growing in inner cities and rural areas.

The Inside Scoop
Job Responsibilities

A Nurse Anesthetist will work indoors at one or several hospitals. They work closely with surgeons to determine when a surgery will take place and the level of anesthesia needed for the patient. 

Every day, an NA will meet face to face with patients who will undergo procedures needing anesthesia. Part of their job will be to answer patient questions and help the patient feel comfortable undergoing anesthesia. 

Surgery happens every day as well. As an important part of the surgical team, these professionals will scrub up and wear safety equipment such as glasses, gloves, and gowns. They are responsible for providing the patient with anesthesia from start to end. After the patient is under anesthesia, the NA will monitor vital signs and change the amount of anesthesia needed during the procedure.

If something goes wrong during a procedure, the NA will help respond. There will be an Emergency Action Plan unique to each hospital and the NA will be trained and expected to participate as described.

After a procedure is completed, the NA will help wake the patient back up and monitor any possible problems. They will also speak with the patient about any typical side effects of the anesthesia.

As an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse, this position may also carry leadership roles in the hospital. An NA may schedule other nurses, participate in delivering orientation, or consult with other medical professionals about specific cases and procedures.

Skills Needed on the Job

Soft Skills

  • Active communication skills, such as listening and speaking clearly
  • Critical thinking and problem solving
  • Detail-oriented
  • Empathy and able to build relationships

Technical Skills

  • Ability to learn and use hospital software systems
  • Computer software such as Microsoft Word
  • Trained to assist in surgery
  • Trained in basic nursing skills prior to earning APRN credential
  • Mathematical ability
Different Types of Organizations

Nurse Anesthetists typically work in a hospital setting. They may be employed at a smaller physician’s office as well.

This position can involve changing locations as well. You might work at a hospital one day and move to a different one the next. In many cases, you will have control over this choice. Other organizations you might work are:

  • Hospice Care Facility
  • Birthing Centers
  • Veteran’s Hospitals
  • Outpatient Clinic
  • A college nursing program
  • Dental Office
Expectations and Sacrifices

The greatest sacrifice will be time. It can also be expensive to become a Nurse Anesthetist.

Nurse Anesthetists must start as Registered Nurses. It takes RN’s an average of four years of college to earn their license. NAs are expected to have experience in critical care situations for several years before applying to their programs. Different programs may have different requirements, but all will expect you to have experience as an RN first.

The program for a nurse to earn an Advanced Practice Registered Nursing certification is two-three years. There is a National exam after completing the program you must pass to earn title. This means it can take seven to eight years to become a Nurse Anesthetist. You are often not able to work and attend school for the program. It is likely future NA’s will be required to earn a doctorate.

If you are able to complete the long school experience, however, you will be seen as a leader and advanced member of the medical community.

Current Trends

By 2025, Nurse Anesthetists will be required to earn a doctorate. This will increase the time needed to become one by at least a year.

This position has also grown in awareness – more people know what a Nurse Anesthetist is and are able to build strong relationships with them.

Nurse Anesthetists are one of the largest growing professions in the medical field as well and will continue to grow in need. It is one of the highest paying advanced nursing positions.

What kinds of things did people in this career enjoy doing when they were young...
  • Pretending to be a doctor or nurse
  • Participating in volunteer clubs at school and helping others
  • Interested in biology and anatomy
  • Excelled; always wanted to do their best and be a winner.
Education and Training Needed
  • Certified Nursing Assistant or Licensed Practical Nurse Program (Can enter RN Program’s directly)
    • CNA – 8-12 weeks
    • LPN – 12 Months
  • Bachelor’s Degree (Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing)
  • Master’s Degree (Master’s of Science in Nursing – Certified Registered Nurse of Anesthesiology)
  • National Board Certification
  • Meet your state requirements
Things to do in High School and College
  • Volunteer at the hospital
  • Explore job-shadowing opportunities in the medical field
  • College programs are competitive – obtain at least a 3.5 or higher GPA
Typical Roadmap
Nurse Anesthetist Gladeo Roadmap
How to land your 1st job

As an advanced nursing position, when you have obtained your licensing as a Nurse Anesthetists, you will already have built a network of other professionals. This network will help you find a position as an NA.

While there is a great need for this position, you may not find one in larger cities. You may need to find positions in rural or inner-city areas and be willing to relocate.

Recommended Resources

Websites

  • American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
  • American Board of Anesthesiology
  • National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists
  • American Nurses Association (ANA)

Publications

  • American Nurse Today (Official Journal of the ANA)
  • Journal of Advanced Nursing
Plan B

If you plan on becoming a certified Nurse Anesthetist, you will be a Registered Nurse first. This will provide you with the option of remaining an RN or moving forward with your advanced degree. You may choose to become a different specialized nurse:

  • Nurse Practitioner
  • Health Policy Nurse
  • Nurse Educator
  • Public Health Nurse
Words of Advice

Being a Nurse Anesthetist is a challenge. There are many years of school as well as years of experience to earn. However, individuals who have chosen this path are overwhelmingly positive about their position, compensation, and work. It is considered well worth the effort needed to achieve.

This position also brings leadership and professional respect. If you are interested in health care, you can become a Registered Nurse and take time in that profession to consider advancement.

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