What is a Nurse Anesthetist?

by Angela Stevens on December 28, 2009

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Nurse AnesthetistI had never heard of nurse anesthetists until a few years ago. After doing a bit of research on the topic, I realized that few people probably had. It seems to be a profession known well in the medical community, but not as well amongst the general population.

A few years ago, a colleague of mine was discussing his wedding plans. He indicated that he was going to become a stay at home dad to his son and the baby he and his future wife were expecting. I found this to be uncommon, so I asked him about his situation. He explained that his fiancé was an Army nurse anesthetist, and she made almost triple his salary. When she retired from the military, she expected to make even more in the private sector. Because her job was obviously able to support the family, they decided he would stay home and be the homemaker. All of this had me wondering exactly what a nurse anesthetist was.

Becoming a registered nurse takes skill, time, and dedication. The financial benefits for all of this work are well worth the effort, with the average salary of a registered nurse being about $55,000. Of course, this can go up or down depending on a variety of factors such as geographical location and field of nursing. Some nurses, however, decide they want a more specialized field and a higher salary. Becoming a nurse anesthetist fulfills both of these desires.

According to recent surveys, the average annual salary of a nurse anesthetist is about $145,000. This is quite a bit more than a registered nurse. The higher salary, of course, requires more time devoted to education as well as additional certification. A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is able to practice in all states, allowing the nurse to move anywhere he or she desires. While it is possible to find a position in any state, most openings are in rural areas. These are areas that are typically underserved by physicians and the option of a CRNA allows these facilities to offer a wider variety of services. The training the CRNAs receive teaches them to administer the anesthetics in exactly the same manner as a doctor.

Some of the locations, rural or otherwise, where a CRNA may work include surgical centers, delivery rooms, and any other facility that has need of an anesthesiologist. Private doctors’ offices that perform inpatient services such as dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, and plastic surgeons may also employ a nurse anesthetist. As I mentioned before, my friend’s fiancé was in the military. Interestingly, the various branches of the military widely use CRNAs as well, and have been using them since the Civil War. Of course, during the Civil War they didn’t have the extensive training or certification processes, but nurses were used to anesthetize the soldiers.

If I were at all interested in nursing, this would definitely be a field I would look closely at. Had you previously heard of nurse anesthetists? Are you interested in becoming certified, and if so, why?

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