Registered nurses (RNs) who are looking for a change and feel they’d like the challenge of working with patients in an intensive care unit, operating room or surgical facility often find becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) to be the perfect solution. CRNAs typically find their work stimulating, rewarding and one of the highest paying jobs in the nursing field. Here is an overview of CRNAs, including what it takes to become one, career outlook and what the career entails.
What is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist?
A certified registered nurse anesthetist is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has earned an RN degree, obtained nursing licensure, completed advanced nurse anesthetist training and obtained state and national certification. Unlike RNs who work in all areas of a healthcare facility, CRNAs spend most of their workday in the ICU, operating room or a similar surgical unit administering anesthesia. Their duties include:
- Providing anesthesia before, during and after procedures
- Taking and documenting patient medical history
- Administering pain medication and emergency care
- Discussing medication and possible side effects to the patient
- Operating and monitoring medical equipment
- Performing physical exams
- Creating patient care treatment plans
- Counseling patients and family members on post-operative care
- Remaining with the patient throughout the procedure to monitor vital signs
How to Become a CRNA
Becoming a CRNA requires extensive education and training. A common path towards this career is a bachelor’s degree in nursing followed by a master’s degree in the specialized area of nurse anesthetist. Candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in a non-nursing field can take a program that offers them the RN degree and advanced nurse anesthetist training. Prior to entering into the nurse anesthetist program, the RN must have completed at least one year of clinical experience. It’s also beneficial for the RN to have experience working in a critical care or acute care setting.
Although the master’s degree is very common for nurse anesthetists, many CRNAs choose to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice or a Ph.D. In order to earn the credential of certified registered nurse anesthetist, the candidate must pass the national certification examination, which is administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists. To maintain certification the CRNA must be re-certified every four years.
There were about 121 accredited nurse anesthetist training programs in the United States as of August 2018 as well as about 1,799 clinical training sites for CRNA students according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job outlook for certified registered nurse anesthetists is very good. During the 2016-2026 decade, CRNAs are expected to experience a job growth of 31 percent, which should result in the creation of 64,200 new jobs by 2026. Certified registered nurse anesthetists earned annual wages ranging from $110,520 to $194,990 as of a May 2017 Bureau report. The average annual wage was $169,450. U.S. News & World Report ranks CRNAs 22nd among the 100 best jobs.
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Working as a certified registered nurse anesthetist is an ideal career for RNs who are interested in advancing their careers to the highest level while still having some patient contact. With such a variety of duties, leadership opportunities and a rewarding paycheck, it’s easy to understand why certified registered nurse anesthetist such a popular career choice.