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Nurse anesthetist job description, salary, and outlook

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At 4 million strong, according to the National Council of State Boards of Nursing, registered nurses (RNs) are key members of the health care profession, helping build and sustain healthy communities. They manage and provide care, educate patients and their families, and offer comfort and support to those in need. And like other medical professionals, RNs can specialize in a particular aspect of health care and focus on a variety of career paths.


If you are an RN who wants to pursue an advanced nursing career, there are a host of options to consider, including nurse anesthetist. Let’s take a look at some of the skills and educational requirements for a career as a nurse anesthetist. Once you better understand the nurse anesthetist job description, you can decide whether this is the career for you.

What is a nurse anesthetist?

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) provide and administer anesthetics to patients in a variety of workplace settings. The American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology (AANA) reports that nurse anesthetists in the United States safely provide over 50 million doses of anesthetics to patients.


Nurse anesthetists collaborate closely with physicians to provide optimal care for patients. In the case of surgery, they serve on the front line of ensuring a safe and successful operating room experience. They monitor each patient’s vital signs throughout the surgical procedure and make informed medical decisions about whether to administer more medication.


Before a medical procedure, nurse anesthetists administer tests to ensure that patients are not allergic to any anesthesia medications. They also review the patient’s medical history and ensure that no medication interferes with anesthesia. Another responsibility is educating patients, families, and caregivers on the process of administering anesthetics, as well as answering questions about what a patient might expect when they wear off.

Workplace environment

If you pursue a career as a CRNA, you may work in a variety of settings throughout your career. If you are interested in a fast-paced work environment, the emergency room may be the best environment for you. If the challenges of the emergency room or intensive care unit are not a good fit, you can work in a dentist’s office, plastic surgeon’s office, or even an outpatient clinic. Nurse anesthetists have the flexibility to choose among many health care settings.

Skill set

If you decide to pursue a career as a CRNA, you’ll need a developed set of skills to help you provide optimal care. A good understanding of the nurse anesthetist job description will help you learn the value of certain competencies, including analytical, communication, technological, and organizational skills.

  • Analytical skills: CRNAs analyze a patient's health records before administering anesthetics to help them provide the safest, most effective results. They must decide whether they will administer general anesthesia, regional or local anesthesia, or intravenous sedation.
  • Communication skills: Patients may have concerns about anesthesia before an operation. CRNAs provide them with useful information and answer their questions. Some CRNAs may even explain the whole anesthetic process from pre- to post-surgery.
  • Technological skills: The importance of technological skills in the health care industry continue to grow. CRNAs must access and interpret electronic health records and stay up to date on the latest medical technology.
  • Organizational skills: A CRNA’s organizational skills allow them to effectively manage complex tasks and responsibilities. For example, during surgery, they monitor a patient’s oxygen levels, temperature, cardiovascular stats, and ventilation.

Education and experience requirements

The road to a career as a nurse anesthetist may be long, but it prepares you for an in-demand and advanced nursing role. You must first acquire a bachelor’s degree in nursing and then pass the NCLEX-RN exam to become licensed in your state. From there, you must gain at least one year of experience working as an RN in a critical care unit (CCU) or an intensive care unit (ICU).

Advanced degree and certification

While gaining work experience in a critical care setting, you can ask to shadow a CRNA in your facility. This can provide you with a deeper understanding of the day-to-day activities of the role. If you are still interested in the career, you can find a master’s in nursing program that is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA).


After completing a master’s program in nursing, you must acquire certification from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). Licensure is achieved by meeting the following requirements — RN certification, advanced degree, and work experience.


Upon meeting the eligibility requirements and passing the exam, you are considered a CRNA.

Recertification requirements and continuing education

As a nurse anesthetist, you must take the necessary steps to retain your certification. You must recertify every four years and are required to take continuing education courses. Additionally, you must sit for and pass an NBCRNA exam every eight years.


The American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology recommends that nurse anesthetist programs should transition to doctoral programs by 2025. This is due to the fact that CRNA certification will require a doctoral degree starting that year.

Nurse anesthetist salary and job outlook

The 2019 median annual salary for nurse anesthetists in the United States was $174,790, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). There are a variety of factors that may affect a CRNA’s salary, including experience. CRNAs with years of experience can expect to command a higher salary than those just starting out. Other factors that might impact salary include work setting and geographical location.


For example, nurse anesthetists who work in a dentist’s office may make less than their colleagues who work in hospital intensive care units. Those who work in more populated states — California, Illinois, and New York, for example — tend to make more than those in less populated states — Kansas, Tennessee, and Utah, for example.


The BLS reports the number of jobs for nurse anesthetists is expected to grow 14% from 2019-2029, more than triple the average rate of all occupations. This growth will stem largely from an aging population and the need for advanced health care professionals in underserved communities. (Some 80% of anesthesia providers in rural areas, for example, are nurse anesthetists.)

Explore the exciting career of a nurse anesthetist

The health care system needs professionals with advanced medical knowledge to meet the demands of an aging population and a rapidly changing health care system.


If the nurse anesthetist job description sounds appealing to you, learn more about how to find the right school for you.


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