Following a year with unprecedented clinical demand due to the coronavirus pandemic, a number of career roles in health care are experiencing immense growth and present a strong career outlook moving forward. Health care career professionals in these positions play an important role in the care of patients across the country, who rely on them…
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How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist
Alternate Career Titles:
CRNA, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Nurse Anesthetist Job Description: Nurse Anesthetists administer anesthesia, oversee patients recovering from anesthesia and monitor vital signs
Nurse Anesthetist Salary (Annual): $115,800
Nurse Anesthetist Salary Range: $82,460 to $184,180
How Long To Become a Nurse Anesthetist: 6 years
Nurse Anesthetist Requirements: Master of Science in Nursing Degree
Become a Nurse Anesthetist
A Nurse Anesthetist is a licensed, independent provider who administers anesthesia care to patients before, during and after surgery, as well as in other various settings. When administering anesthesia, these professionals are able to put a patient to sleep or simply numb the area of the body receiving care.
Before administering the anesthesia, however, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) will prepare the patient’s room with the necessary equipment, and have already determined the best suited anesthetic plan including medications and dosages. Lastly, these professionals must monitor the patient’s vitals throughout the procedure, and have mastered epidurals, spinals, arterial line placement and tracheal intubation.
“Working as a Nurse Anesthetist is 97 percent smooth sailing and 3 percent sheer terror,” Fatin Badran, CRNA, a Nurse Anesthetist practicing in Michigan, said. “The career is challenging in the sense that every day and every patient is unique. You monitor a patient’s vitals while administering medications that can cause a lot of variability to the hemodynamics of someone’s body.”
Badran added that in the role of a Nurse Anesthetist, professionals are responsible for both reducing pain and consciousness while maintaining a patent airway. She noted that this alone can become a tough juggling act, especially when taking into consideration a person’s comorbidities, the simultaneous presence of two chronic diseases or conditions.
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Education & Training
To become a Nurse Anesthetist, professionals must first become a Registered Nurse by completing a Bachelor’s Degree program in nursing. Badran noted that during undergraduate studies, learners intending on become Nurse Anesthetists should maintain a strong grade point average (GPA), especially in science courses, and take on leadership roles. Upon completing this degree, learners must enter a CRNA Master’s Degree program and then become certified through the National Board of Certification and Re-certification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).
“I was lucky enough to be accepted on my first attempt at applying to schools,” Badran said. “I had worked as an Intensive Care Unit (ICU) nurse for one year and five months prior to being accepted. My program was a 28 month masters program that was extremely grueling.”
Badran explained that the challenges involved in obtaining her Master’s Degree involved having to “navigate through unknown territory,” meaning that she had to learn everything about anesthesia. Ultimately, taking these rigorous classes meant that she had limited time to spend with friends and family.
“The constant studying left me tired and anxious at times, but you persevere through,” Badran assured.
In the case of CRNAs wishing to advance their careers, many gain leadership roles or come to take on more responsibilities at their workplace. These opportunities usual result from hard work and dedication, and possibly expressing to a superior the desire to take on additional opportunities. Some Nurse Anesthetists also choose to pursue a Doctoral Degree, while others find opportunities for advancement through working in education as a type of Health Educator or in research.
“To advance your career in anesthesia, I would personally recommend obtaining a Doctorate Degree, which entails more schooling,” Badran advised. “Having a Doctoral Degree allows you to take up roles in teaching.”
Experience & Skills
“As mentioned before, ICU experience prior to entering this field is mandatory,” Badran stressed. “The ICU teaches you to critically think, be familiar with multiple drugs and to become organized, which is essential to being a Nurse Anesthetist.”
Also, to be an effective CRNA, professionals should have leadership skills, important because they often are in positions of authority and may supervise other healthcare staff members. Additionally, these professionals should be able to work as part of a team, while still thinking critically and independently regarding a patient’s anesthetics. These professionals should also possess physical endurance and strong communication skills, allowing them to relay messages to patients, Surgeons, Anesthesiologists and other healthcare professionals.
“Being a Nurse Anesthetist is an active career where you are on your feet a lot, and contrary to what most people might think, there is a lot of person to person interaction,” Badran said.
Lastly, Nurse Anesthetists should have strong analytical skills, helping them to assess patient scenarios and ensure that they are tolerating anesthesia appropriately based largely on their vital signs.
As in any nursing-related career, Nurse Anesthetists should be kind, caring and empathetic professionals. They should be able to cater to patient’s physical and emotional needs, while ensuring that they are receiving the highest quality care. CRNA’s should also compassionate and informative, helping a patient to trust in their services. Furthermore, they should be able to think on their feet, deal well with stressful situations, be resourceful and always remain organized and detail-oriented. This helps to ensure that each patient’s anesthetics are administered smoothly, with no room for error.
“We joke in anesthesia that all Nurse Anesthetists have A-type personalities, which is probably true,” Badran said. “Being organized, paying attention to detail, being confident, remaining calm under stress and being assertive are all important for this career.”
While the majority of Nurse Anesthetists work full-time, their hours vary greatly and are dependent on the healthcare setting they are employed by. For example, CRNAs who work within hospitals may be required to work 8, 10, 12, 16 for 24 hour shifts depending on need. Additionally, because these facilities are open 24/7, Nurse Anesthetists can end up working 40 to 50 hours per week.
However, there does exist the possibility to work shorter shifts, from 8 to 12 hours, 4 to 5 days per week. Additionally, those CRNAs who work in outpatient clinics, or the offices of healthcare practitioners may have a more regular 8 am to 5 pm set schedule.
“I would say the lifestyle of professionals in this career is flexible,” Badran noted. “You can work 24, 16, 14, 12, 10 or 8 hour shifts depending on the facility you choose to be employed by. However, being on call, working weekends and holidays will usually be a part of the schedule, so be prepared for that. Regardless, you can still work part-time or contingent schedules and make a very good salary.”
Now is a great time to begin a career in healthcare as a Nurse Anesthetist! Over the next decade, the Nurse Anesthetist occupation is projected to grow 26 percent, which is much faster than the average for all occupations. This growth can largely be attributed to a growing demand for pain relief in the field of healthcare.
“I had no issues finding a position once graduating. The career outlook seems good,” Badran said.
The top employers of Nurse Anesthetists are the offices of Physicians, hospitals, outpatient care centers, the office of other healthcare practitioners and the federal executive branch. The state which employs the greatest number of these professionals is Texas, followed by Ohio, North Carolina, Pennsylvania and Florida.
“To set one’s self up for employment immediately after finishing school, I would recommend becoming a nurse first, working in the ICU and then shadowing a Nurse Anesthetist,” Badran advised. “If you feel the career is the right fit for you, take up as many related leadership roles as possible, as this is a very competitive field.”
A career as a Nurse Anesthetist can be extremely lucrative! The median annual wage for a Nurse Anesthetist was $115,800. While the lowest 10 percent were recorded to have made less than $82,460, the highest 10 percent earned more than $184,180. Additionally, the top paying facilities for this occupation are outpatient care centers, specialty hospitals, general care hospitals, the federal executive branch and the offices of Physicians. Top paying states for this occupation are Montana, Wyoming, California, Oregon and Nevada.
“The median salary for this profession may be somewhere around $150,000, however salaries do vary from state to state with most making above this,” Badran explained. “Moreover, there is plenty of opportunity to pick up overtime or at multiple facilities to supplement income.”
Unions, Groups, Social Media, and Associations
The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) is an organization designed to promulgate education, practice standards and guidelines within this occupation. Additionally, AANA works to consult private and public entities regarding these professionals and their practice. Furthermore, AANA supports Nurse Anesthetists by providing them with education and research grants.
- Research the career to determine if you are interested in the scope of work
- Reach out to a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists and ask to shadow
- Gain work or volunteer experience in a related field
- Research CRNA programs and their application requirements
- Apply to schools
- Constantly network with industry professionals
All statistics are provided by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Meet the professional: Fatin Badran, CRNA
Practice: Beaumont Hospital, Dearborn
Location: Dearborn, Michigan
What is the single biggest suggestion you would give to someone wanting to get into this career?
“You need to be motivated. Show initiative, obtain good grades in school and shadow an industry professional.”
What’s the number one mistake people make when trying to get into this career?
“The number one mistake learners make when embarking on the path to becoming a Nurse Anesthetist is that they only focus on the salary, and once in a program, they realize this career is not for them.”
What is the question people should ask about this career but rarely do?
“People think all we do is ‘put someone to sleep.’ I feel that there is a huge misunderstanding of what the career as a Nurse Anesthetist actually entails, and so those kinds of questions need to be asked. There is a reason we have such a large salary.”
Why did you choose to become a Nurse Anesthetist?
“As a nurse I rotated in the operating room (OR) for an open heart surgery. The day was spent with the Nurse Anesthetist who took me under her wing and showed me another world. I was so intrigued. From that moment on, the seed was planted.”
If you could describe in one word what makes you successful, what would that be?
Credentialing organization: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)