Nurse Anesthetist Career Profile

A nurse anesthetist (NA) is a registered nurse with special training in anesthesia. NAs are commonly referred to as certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). They are the most highly paid of all nurses. They are trained to administer anesthesia or sedation generally, regionally or locally before surgery or any obstetrical procedures.

They are essential in a hospital's operation theatre when an anesthesiologist is unavailable. Because paying a CRNA is more economical than employing or paying an anesthesiologist, some facilities use them frequently instead of anesthesiologists.

Work Environment

They are usually employed by a hospital, and their work area is the operation theatre. Some of them are also stationed at outpatient surgery centers and medical offices. They generally work in co-operation with anesthesiologists, surgeons, dentists, podiatrists or other health-care professionals. They can work during any type of operation, from open-heart to podiatric to pain-management surgery.

The workload generally depends on the number of members on a given hospital's anesthesiology staff, and they have to be prepared for on-call duty for emergency cases.

Duties

NACRs are responsible for the before and after care of surgery patients. The following are some specific duties: 

  • Assess the physical stability of the patient before surgery.
  • Administer anesthesia based on a study of the patient’s vital signs. For instance, base the anesthesia level on the pulse rate. Extract the patient out of the anesthesia state or unconsciousness after the surgery is over.
  • Perform follow-up reviews to confirm the patient’s recovery from anesthesia.
  • Maintain the medical records of the patients to whom they have administered anesthesia.
  • Give health maintenance or disease prevention tips to patients in post-operation sessions.
  • Offer encouragement, solace and mental support to patients and listen keenly to their feedback.

Educational Requirements

A CRNA is a special type of advance practice nurse. These requirements of credentialing and experience are usual for the profession:

  • Hold a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a related field.
  • Become a Registered Nurse (RN) by completing the National Licensing exam for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN).
  • Practice as an RN for at least a year.
  • Complete an anesthetist graduate program, which lasts two to three years, at an accredited college. Such programs train students in the use of anesthetics, basic anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, chemistry, biochemistry and pharmacology.
  • Finish a year’s residential acute care nursing internship.
  • Succeed in the national certification exam for CRNAs.

Income

CRNAs can earn more than the salary of primary care physicians. The reported average annual salary of CRNAs in 2005 was $160,000, according to a study done by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

Career Advancement

Impressively, CRNAs deliver anesthesia to 65 percent of the more than 26,000,000 patients requiring it annually in the U.S. CRNAs administer anesthetics for various surgical, trauma or obstetrics procedures. They can become the head of an anesthesiology staff after enough checkpoints have been passed in their career.

Job Prospects

Many hospitals prefer to employ CRNAs rather than anesthesiologists because the latter’s pay is two to three times more. Because CRNAs make it possible for hospitals to perform more surgeries at less cost, they are valuable additions to hospital staffs.