Key Highlights:

  • The median annual salary for nurse anesthetists is $203,090 as of 2022. It’s one of the top-paying careers out there.
  • Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia and control its supply throughout a patient’s surgery.
  • Becoming a nurse anesthetist requires extensive training that can take about 7 to 8.5 years, including the time from your bachelor’s to your doctoral degree.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) stand out as respected experts in the nursing and healthcare landscape. What is a CRNA, you ask? CRNAs are extremely skilled professionals who administer anesthesia. The process of administering anesthesia is tricky and can come with complications. CRNAs undergo extensive training before they perform this complex task and eventually become proficient at it. 

Are you impressed by the expert skills that a nurse anesthetist demonstrates? Do you want to join this profession? This blog will take you through all aspects of the profession, including CRNA salary, education, career scope, and what a day on the job is like. 

CRNA stands for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. CRNAs are a type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). These professionals are trained to administer anesthesia, a pain-numbing medication, to patients during surgeries. They administer anesthesia and regulate the anesthesia supply throughout the procedure to ensure the patients are comfortable and safe. They also monitor vital signs like heart rate, breathing, blood pressure, body temperature, and other aspects. Nurse anesthetists work with anesthesiologists and surgeons to ensure a smooth medical procedure. 

Related: Everything you need to know about your APRN degree

There are several duties that nurse anesthetists are required to perform. Their duties start with pre-medical checkups, followed by surgery, and then post-medical care. Here are some of the roles and responsibilities that nurse anesthetists perform: 

1. Anesthesia Administration:

  • Administer anesthesia to patients before surgery or medical procedures.
  • Determine the appropriate type and dosage of anesthesia based on the patient’s medical history, the procedure to be performed, and other relevant factors.
  • Ensure that the patient’s best interests and safety are prioritized throughout the anesthesia process.

2. Patient Assessment:

  • Conduct pre-anesthetic assessments to evaluate the patient’s health status, medical history, and any potential risks or complications.
  • Formulate an anesthesia care plan tailored to the individual needs of the patient.

3. Monitoring:

  • Monitor vital signs and other physiological parameters during the administration of anesthesia to ensure the patient’s safety and well-being.
  • Adjust anesthesia levels as needed throughout the procedure.

4. Pain Management:

  • Provide pain management services, including administering analgesics and other medications to control pain during and after surgery.

5. Collaboration:

  • Collaborate with other members of the healthcare team, including surgeons, physicians, and nurses, to ensure coordinated and effective patient care.
  • Communicate with patients to address concerns and provide information about anesthesia procedures.

6. Emergency Response:

  • Be prepared to respond to emergencies or complications related to anesthesia, such as adverse reactions or changes in the patient’s condition.

7. Post-Anesthesia Care:

  • Monitor and manage patients in the post-anesthesia care unit (PACU) to ensure a smooth recovery from anesthesia.
  • Provide post-operative pain management and assess for any complications.

8. Documentation:

  • Maintain accurate and detailed records of the anesthesia care provided, including patient assessments, anesthesia plans, and any complications or interventions.

This is a rather general nurse anesthetist job description; your specific duties would depend on your employer, organization, and state regulations. 

Nurse anesthetists are some of the most highly paid nurses. They receive extensive training along with a lot of hands-on experience. This job can be really intense because the decisions made by anesthetists can have a huge impact on the patient’s life. Becoming a nurse anesthetist is a great profession that comes with great responsibility.

Nurse anesthetists are rewarded generously for their specialized labor. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage that nurse anesthetists received in 2022 was $203,090

If you’re interested in being a part of this career, then you’re in luck. There’s a growing demand for nurse anesthetists, and BLS forecasts a 9% increase in employment from 2022-2032, which is faster than average for all other occupations.

These are some of the states that pay high salaries to nurse anesthetists.

State Hourly mean wageAnnual mean wage
North Dakota$115.00$239,200
California$ 118.52$ 246,510
Connecticut$ 115.66$ 240,580
New York$ 114.77$ 238,710
Illinois$ 114.64$ 238,440

Being a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist is both fulfilling and busy. Your day could start with getting to know your patient’s medical history and then curating the type of care they would need. 

Before the surgery, a lot of patients may feel scared or uncertain. You will be the one comforting them before the procedure and assuring them that they will be taken care of. Throughout the day, you would need to be a part of a lot of surgeries, requiring you to stay vigilant so that you can take care of any emergencies that could occur during procedures. 

You will need to make sure that the patient remains comfortable and safe. There can be instances when you will need to make critical decisions that concern matters of life and death. Post-surgery care is also something you will take care of. 

Your day could include working with a lot of people who are very sick and undergoing serious treatments. Moving them around could be difficult, as these patients may have some equipment they require and hold on to at all times. These patients depend on you, and you need to give them the best possible care. All these factors could make your job emotionally and physically demanding. 

Many experienced nurse anesthetists believe in a simple but valuable piece of advice: take care of your health and your body. Only with a healthy body will you be able to be a nurse for a good number of years and continue running in this marathon.

All in all, most nurse anesthetists find this job immensely rewarding, as they take care of a major part of any surgical procedure. You will be an integral part of a patient’s experience, and the help you provide in the form of pain management is significant. 

Becoming a CRNA would require you to undergo rigorous training coupled with a good number of hours invested in hands-on experience. This is because CRNAs are advanced nurses who have a vital role to play in medical procedures.

Here’s how you can become a nurse anesthetist:

  1. Get your bachelor’s in nursing

You can start by getting your undergraduate degree in nursing, like a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN). This will help you gain foundational knowledge in nursing. While it is possible to become an RN after completing your associate degree, many CRNA programs require you to hold a BSN.

  1. Licensure:

You will then have to appear for the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). After you clear this exam, you can then apply for licensure.

  1. Work experience:

You are expected to have at least a year of experience working as an RN in a critical care setting. Since CRNA programs are generally competitive, some RNs go on to get their Critical Care Registered Nurse certification (CCRN).

  1. Earn your master’s or doctoral:

Becoming an APRN requires that you complete your master’s degree. The new policy, scheduled to take effect in 2025, states that starting in 2025, the minimum educational requirement for new hires as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) will be a DNP, or Doctorate of Anesthesia Practice (DNAP). 

  1. Nurse anesthesia program:

You can enroll in a nurse anesthesia educational program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). 

Note – Those CRNAs already working with a master’s degree can continue in their current roles, but it is advised that they consider getting their doctoral degree to stay competitive. The minimum length for both master’s programs and doctoral programs is 36 months and requires full-time enrollment, although some programs may allow student registered nurse anesthetists (SRNAs) to work part-time as registered nurses.

The process of becoming a CRNA generally takes about 7 to 9 years. CRNA school length

can vary depending on your path. The path to becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) typically begins with a four-year Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree. After obtaining a BSN, gaining one year of full-time clinical experience as a Registered Nurse (RN) is recommended. Subsequently, pursuing a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) and/or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) with a specialization in nurse anesthesia typically takes an additional two to four years. 

Here are a few necessary skills that CRNAs should possess:

1. Clinical Competence: CRNAs must possess strong assessment skills and technical proficiency in administering anesthesia.

2. Critical Thinking: The ability to make informed and timely decisions in high-pressure situations is crucial.

3. Communication Skills: Effective communication with patients and interdisciplinary healthcare teams is essential for optimal patient care.

4. Attention to Detail: CRNAs must demonstrate precision in administering medications and monitoring vital signs.

5. Stress Management: Remaining calm and focused during emergencies or unexpected events is essential in the field of anesthesia.

6. Teamwork: Collaboration with surgeons, nurses, and other professionals requires strong teamwork skills.

7. Leadership: CRNAs often work autonomously, necessitating leadership skills for sound decision-making.

8. Continuous Learning: Adaptability to stay current with evolving technologies, procedures, and research in anesthesia.

9. Ethical Practice: Adherence to ethical standards and making decisions that prioritize patient well-being.

10. Interpersonal Skills: Empathy for patient concerns and maintaining professionalism in all interactions.

Becoming a part of the nurse anesthetist profession may require a lot of dedication and hard work, but pays off when you witness the profound impact you can have on patient care and safety. The satisfaction of playing a critical role in surgical procedures, ensuring pain management, and helping patients throughout the anesthesia process is immensely rewarding. If you feel inclined towards this profession, then take time to do your research and figure out the best path to the CRNA role. 

Is there work-life balance as a CRNA?

Achieving work-life balance as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is possible but varies. Factors like workplace, schedules, and personal preferences play a role. While CRNAs often have flexibility in their positions, the nature of healthcare may involve shifts and on-call responsibilities. Negotiating terms and exploring suitable work environments can help align the profession with desired work-life balance goals. The high pay that this job offers will let you live a comfortable life so that’s a plus point that could ease the burden of working those long hours and shifting schedules.

Is becoming a CRNA worth it?

For many, yes. Becoming a CRNA offers competitive salaries, professional autonomy, and a crucial role in patient care during surgical procedures. The profession is fulfilling due to job satisfaction, continuous learning, and potential career advancement. However, you should consider the education and training commitments with your personal and professional goals to determine if a CRNA career aligns with your aspirations and lifestyle.