You may not have heard of a nurse anesthetist before but if you’re considering a career in the medical field as a nurse, you should learn more about this high-paying position. The career outlook for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists is very strong both in job satisfaction and excellent salary and employment levels. A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is an Advanced Practice Nurse (APN) who performs a variety of roles similar to an anesthesiologist. A nurse anesthetist can administer anesthesia prior to surgery and is responsible for monitoring the patient’s response to the anesthesia throughout surgery, as well as evaluating their health afterwards.
CRNAs are the sole anesthesia providers in about 10% of health care facilities nationwide and in nearly two-thirds of rural hospitals. Nurse anesthetists operate with a great deal of autonomy in regards to administering and monitoring anesthesia, which requires them to possess advanced education. A bachelor’s in nursing (BSN) and successful completion of the registered nurse exam is required to become a CRNA. After the bachelor’s degree is earned from a four-year college, the RN must then complete a Master in Nursing Science program (MSN) and pass a certification exam.
Due to the great deal of autonomy accorded them and the fact that nurse anesthetists are often the sole anesthesia administrato, r they must feel comfortable working alone and frequently for long hours. The CRNA typically sees a patient even before the doctor to perform a preoperative screen. They must also be present to administer and monitor anesthesia before and during surgery and observe the patient in recovery.
Nurse anesthetists function in a wide range of settings beyond the hospital. As the number of surgeries performed grows nationwide and more outpatient procedures such as plastic surgery have become available, nurse anesthetists can be found anywhere you would expect to see a health professional. A CRNA could work in a hospital, with podiatrists, at a plastic surgeon’s facility, or in conjunction with a dentistry practice. According to a member profile by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), 82% of CRNAs do work in a hospital setting, possibly due to the high need for qualified practitioners that has led many hospitals to recruit them. Another 10% work in ambulatory settings, or health care facilities that provide outpatient procedures.
Besides their primary responsibility in administering anesthesia, CRNAs may also provide pain-management care. In fact, chronic pain treatment has grown to be a central part in the practice of many nurse anesthetists. Currently, a CRNA may provide some pain-management directly, such as by refilling implanted pumps with pain medication or by administering steroid injections to reduce painful swelling. In some states they may also write prescriptions for pain medication.
A recent push has begun to broaden a nurse anesthetist’s authority in regards to prescribing and administering pain medication. Doctor groups, including the American Medical Association, have objected to such a proposition. The American Society of Interventional Pain Physicians claims that allowing nurse anesthetists such authority would make them the equivalent of doctors.
Most of the objections, however, have been on the part of doctor groups – representatives of those being treated are all in support. The AARP has written to the Center for Medicare Support endorsing greater powers for nurse anesthetists to administer pain medication, as has the American Rural Health Association. Nurse anesthetists, remember, are the sole provider for anesthesia in two-thirds of rural hospitals, and many patients already have to travel a great distance to receive their pain medication.
Nurse anesthetists enjoy a positive career outlook even in the current economic climate. The U.S. Department of Labor’s 2006-07 Occupational Outlook Handbook predicted that employment opportunities for a CRNA would be “excellent” through 2014. There is very little turnover in the profession as well: only 4% leave the field, while 10% of nurse anesthetists eligible for retirement choose to continue working.
Nurse anesthetists choose to keep working because they have a very fulfilling job. CNN Money even ranked nurse anesthetist as the 13th best job in its 2010 rankings. Besides the satisfaction of easing a person’s pain or helping them through surgery, many CRNAs reportedly enjoy their autonomy; as an advanced practitioner a nurse anesthetist is subject to less oversight than a Registered Nurse and in some cases, in most often rural settings and for pain management, a CRNA may operate independently.
Being happy with your job doesn’t pay the bills, so prospective nurse anesthetists will be glad to know that it’s a lucrative career as well. The same CNN money survey ranked nurse anesthetist as the fourth best paying career, with a median salary of $157,000 and a top salary of $214,000. Actual salary will depend on location and type of practice, but any nurse practitioner can expect to comfortably earn over $100,000.
Whether you are already a registered nurse seeking job advancement or are thinking about a career in nursing, becoming a nurse anesthetist would be a terrific option. A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist makes excellent money while enjoying high job satisfaction and great employment opportunities. If you like to help people and would like a career that you can practice anywhere, consider becoming a nurse anesthetist.