Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice nurses who safely provide more than 32 million anesthetics for surgical, obstetrical and trauma care each year in the United States. They administer every type of anesthetic, work in every type of practice setting and provide care for every type of operation or procedure – from open heart surgery to pain management programs.
CRNAs provide anesthetics to patients in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists and other qualified healthcare professionals. As advanced practice registered nurses, they are given a high degree of autonomy and professional respect.
Nurse anesthetists have been providing anesthesia in the United States for over 125 years, beginning with their care of wounded soldiers during the Civil War. There currently are more than 36,000 nurse anesthetists in the United States – approximately 45% of whom are men (as compared with 8% men in the nursing profession as a whole). CRNAs are the sole providers of anesthesia in approximately two thirds of all rural hospitals in the United States, enabling these healthcare facilities to offer obstetrical, surgical and trauma stabilization services. In some states, CRNAs are the sole providers in nearly 100% of rural hospitals.
CRNAs practice in every setting in which anesthesia is delivered: traditional hospital surgical suites and obstetrical delivery rooms; critical access hospitals; ambulatory surgical centers; the offices of dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons and pain management specialists; and healthcare facilities of the military, Public Health Service and Veterans’ Affairs.
Salary Range and Outlook
The prospects for finding a good job in this field are excellent for the foreseeable future: According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, there is a significant and growing need for CRNAs across the country.
CRNAs carry a heavy load of responsibility and are compensated accordingly. The reported average annual salary in 2012 was approximately $157,000 with more experienced CRNAs earning up to $214,000 each year.
In order to be accepted into an accredited nurse anesthesia program, you must be a currently licensed RN with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or other appropriate baccalaureate degree and at least one year of experience in an acute care setting. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) programs, which lead to a master’s or doctoral degree, take two to three years and include clinical training in university-based or large community hospitals. Following graduation, you must pass the national certification exam before you can begin practice. However, certification is not a one-time accomplishment: In order to maintain their certification standing, CRNAs must obtain a minimum of 40 hours of continuing education every two years.
Learn More About a Career as a Nurse Anesthetist
- Watch a video about the role of nurse anesthetists.
- Read stories about the work nurse anesthetists do.