A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) provides anesthesia services in the same manner as a medical doctor who trained as an anesthesiologist. It is a licensed professional nurse who has become nationally certified to practice as an anesthetist after completing education and training. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists started practicing in 1956 and administer anesthesia to more than 32 million patients annually. They are the highest paid professionals in the nursing field, and they work closely with surgeons, other anesthesiologists, dentists, and podiatrists.

Many nurse anesthetists are the only professionals available to administer anesthesia in rural areas, and work with 100 percent autonomy. Studies show that there is no difference between the care provided by a CNRA than by a physician anesthesiologist.


Job Duties and Responsibilities of a Nurse Anesthetist

The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist delivers anesthesia to patients during surgical procedures. They work with patients before, during, and after surgery. These duties include assessing the patient before the surgery; preparing for managing, administration and maintenance of the anesthesia during the surgery; overseeing post-operative recovery from anesthesia; and following the patient through the entire post-operative recovery procedure. A professional in the field generally provides care for one patient at a time, rather than juggling multiple anesthesia patients.


The practice of anesthesia includes all techniques of the field, including general anesthesia delivery, epidurals, sedations, peripheral nerve blocks, spinal anesthesia, and local anesthesia. Local states and medical providers further define the duties of the professional. Further, in 2001 a rule published in the Federal Register by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services allowed states to exempt the CRNA from physician oversight, and to date, 16 states have done so and developed their own requirements.

Educational Requirements for a Nurse Anesthetist


A career in the field starts with earning a bachelor’s in nursing degree and then obtaining a master’s degree in nurse anesthesia. In order to be accepted in a master’s degree program, the nurse needs to have at least one year of experience in an acute care environment. After completing all required coursework, a certification examination is required in order to attain the designation of Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.

CRNA’s must be recertified every two years, and obtain 40 hours of approved continuing education. At that time, they must also certify that they have not developed medical or mental conditions that could adversely affect their ability to practice.

These types of nursing professionals work strongly with a variety of medical providers ranging from dentists to surgeons to doctors of anesthesiology. These people are in charge of performing primary assessments of the physical condition prior to surgery, as well as any information about the process that needs to be imparted to the patient. Administration of anesthesia is done with the goal of eliminating patient pain during the surgical process, and so the CRNA is in charge of maintaining a safe degree of anesthesia throughout the surgery. In addition, these experts are charged with managing the patient’s recovery from the anesthetic condition.


Nursing anesthetist professionals are one of the only nursing groups who remain by their person’s side throughout the course of their treatment. This specific is because every aspect of the patient’s physical functions needs to be monitored and adjusted to ensure that the procedure is safe and the patient is free from unnecessary stress. Of the more than twenty million cases where anesthesia is administered each year, CRNAs are responsible for managing nearly sixty 5 percent. The number of CRNAs providing their services to patients in the United States is now estimated to be in excess of 28, 000.

To enter the accreditation program for being an anesthetic nursing professional, you must have completed a bachelor’s nursing diploma in addition to receiving your registered nursing license. You should also have at least one full year of experience in acute nursing care. Although a master’s degree is not necessary to a program for anesthetic breastfeeding, it should be recognized that most of these programs can, in fact, lead to a master’s degree. The basic educational curriculum involves study in the areas of physiology, pharmacology, chemistry, and many more subjects. Within addition, the clinical study concerning anesthesia technology and techniques is a critical element of the educational process.

Where Do Nurse Anesthetists Work?

Several of the areas in which nursing anesthesiologists are most in demand include private clinics and clinics, delivery rooms, surgery centers, dental offices, and pain management facilities. There are also CRNAs at the office within the military and almost any medical arena through which patients need well-monitored pain management during a medical procedure.

In many states a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist will work with and under the direction of a doctor. The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist’s duties can include consulting with a patient before surgery to learn their medical history, continuously monitoring a patient while the anesthesia is being administered, and supervising the patient’s care and monitoring their condition while they recover from the effects of anesthesia.

Who Can Become a Nurse Anesthetist?


One must have a high level of competency and skill, as well as a specialized graduate-level education, in order to become a certified nurse anesthetist. This includes 1,700 clinical hours and 800 anesthesia administrations prior to certification, in addition to the traditional requirements to receive a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing and become a Registered Nurse (RN). Certified nurse anesthetists must complete 2-3 years of graduate training, during which their experience hours as a Registered Nurse in acute care are completed. There is also a national certification exam, which all RNs must pass before becoming nurse anesthetists.

Nurse Anesthetist Salary and Job Outlook


Since registered nurse anesthetists can be trained and hired for about one-eighth of the cost of an anesthesiologist, they are very much in demand with clinics, hospitals, and other healthcare facilities these days. They find work in both private and public settings, including ambulatory care, dental offices, health clinics and hospitals (ERs and ORs). On a daily basis, the job may require a wide variety of anesthesia services depending on the employer and the location, whether it’s a rural area or an inner city. In some cases, the work is very specific; a certified registered nurse anesthetist may only work with mothers delivering their babies, for instance.

The pay is a major perk of the job for certified nurse anesthetists. The median annually salary for certified nurse anesthetists is approximately $156,610, according to Salary.com. As far as the nursing field goes, this is a top salary among even the highest-paying clinical nursing specialties. Aside from the pay, most jobs also provide a full package of health, dental and vision insurance benefits, as well as paid vacations and retirement savings accounts. And, of course, the benefits of helping people stay safe and pain-free during various necessary medical procedures is priceless.


A nursing career is a sure way to a good salary. Just how good is that income? Well, Salary.com reveals that in 2007, the national average salary for a registered nurse was $59,000.

But here’s some surprising news: there’s one advanced nursing degree which pays as much or more as some medical doctors salaries – with less time in school. Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists earn more than $100,000 a year upon graduation from CRNA programs. This income can even go as high as $150,000 a year for an experienced CRNA.

What One Need to Become a CRNA?

To become one, first, you must be a registered nurse. After being assigned for at least one year in a critical care section, you will then be eligible to apply for a slot in a CRNA program. This is a master’s degree level program. These programs are quite competitive to get into, so if you are interested in applying to a CRNA program, make sure that you keep your grades up when taking prerequisite classes, especially science and math.

If you do get into a CRNA program, be prepared for two to three years of intensive study. They often run through the summer as well. So while there are holiday breaks, there is no summer off in many CRNA programs.

So What Exactly Does a CRNA Do?


He/she usually works with a doctor in a hospital or any healthcare facility. In some states, a CRNA doesn’t need to work under the supervision of a doctor. They will check with patients before surgery, and get their medical history and other vital information. They will monitor the patient during surgery, and continue to monitor the patient as the patient recovers from the effects of anesthesia.

Because of the huge responsibility and the potential for liability that the duties of a CRNA entail, not all registered nurses are keen on taking on the job. However, the pay is excellent and there is a huge demand for CRNAs. They graduate with multiple job offers.

Certification Program for Nurse Anesthetists

To enter a program for accreditation as an anesthetic nursing professional, you must have completed a bachelor’s degree in nursing in addition to receiving your registered nursing license. You should also have at least one full year of experience in acute nursing care. While a master’s degree is not necessary to enter a program for anesthetic nursing, it should be recognized that most of these programs can, in fact, lead to a master’s degree. The basic educational curriculum involves study in the areas of physiology, pharmacology, chemistry, and many other subjects. In addition, the clinical study involving anesthesia technology and techniques is a critical component of the educational process.


To become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, a student must be a licensed registered nurse and have at least a year of working experience in critical care.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist programs are master’s degree programs. They often run continuously, from two to two and a half years without a summer break. They are very intensive programs and it is impossible to work full-time during these programs.

Many schools actually require their students to sign an agreement not to work full-time while they are participating in the program. The programs are very competitive, with many students competing for each slot, and the schools that offer these programs want to ensure that the students who attend will be able to successfully complete the program.

It would be challenging to even work part-time during these programs.

They involve a lot of clinical time, in which the CRNA student is working under the direction of a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.

A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist must have advanced knowledge of anatomy & physiology, mathematics, drug interactions, and other areas of science.

A CRNA program is expensive and time-consuming. However, it’s also cheaper and faster than medical schools.

A CRNA degree is not for everybody, and it is not for every nurse. Given the time and money commitment required to become a CRNA – two to three years without being able to work full-time, plus the cost of the program – nursing students should give careful thought before committing to pursue a CRNA degree.

However, there is a huge demand for CRNA’s everywhere in the country, and the pay is excellent. If the job responsibilities of a CRNA sound appealing to you, it’s definitely a career to which you should give your consideration.

CNRA Online Coursework


CNRA online courses may be offered by community colleges, vocational colleges, and non-profit healthcare associations. The coursework will instruct students on subjects like bedside nursing duties, nursing theory, nutrition, infection prevention and control, and anatomy. Other topics may include record keeping, professional etiquette, client rights, mental health, and available social services.

The format of the online courses may include virtual web classroom instruction, video conferencing, interactive discussion boards, or independent study. You may obtain your clinical training at a healthcare location such as a hospital or an assisted living facility while working with a licensed nurse.

The State Exam


After completing your coursework and training, you will need to pass a state exam to become certified. There are two parts to the test – a written exam and a clinical skills test. The skills test will measure competency in areas such as feeding, dressing, patient communication, and proper hygiene. Often, you will be allowed to work after you complete your coursework for a short time before you test for your certification.

Preparing for Your CNRA Career

A great way to prepare for becoming a CNRA is to volunteer at a local hospital or nursing home. You will gain experience as well as see first-hand what this type of career will involve. It will give you an idea of what it is like to work in the healthcare field and help you determine if this type of work is right for you.

Becoming a CNRA is not the right career move for everyone. While there is high demand in the healthcare field for nursing assistants, the turnover rate is high. The work is hard and often the pay does not reflect this but those who love helping people will find this a rewarding career.

So if you think you may be interested, start researching what CRNA schools are available in your state, and talk to guidance counselors at those schools to see if it might be a career for you.


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