Nurse Anesthetist


Nursing anesthesia is a nursing career path with a rich history that dates back to the Civil War.  It was in 1956 that this specialty became a certified one and at this time the title of certified registered nurse anesthetist was born.  Nurses in this specialty have immense autonomy and often work as the sole anesthetist in a variety of surgical procedures, obstetrical conditions and trauma situations.

In the United States, nurse anesthetists throughout the country provide anesthesia to an average of 32 million patients every year.

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse Anesthetist Salary

The median salary for a nurse anesthetist in the United States is $154,390.  The highest 10 percent earned $187,199 and the lowest 10 percent earned $105,810.

The salary that you are offered will depend on a variety of factors, such as your geographical location, the population of the area where you live, your practice setting and level of experience.  There is usually room for negotiation and this is something you will need to approach with the employers that you are considering.

Nurse Anesthetist Job Description

Nurse anesthetists work with patients of all ages, from infants to the elderly.  They work with the patient from the time they check in for a procedure until the time that they leave or are transferred to another area of the hospital.  This includes the preoperative interview, the administration and maintenance of anesthesia and the necessary post-anesthesia care that immediately follows surgery.

This type of nurse will work in a large variety of environments, such as administering anesthesia during all types of surgical procedures, administering an epidural during childbirth and assisting in patient stabilization during trauma care.  They can work in hospitals of all sizes, clinics, birthing centers, trauma centers, urgent care centers, ambulatory surgical centers, plastic surgeon’s offices, dental offices and pain management practices.

The nurse anesthetist can work either independently or with an anesthesiologist.  In rural hospitals, they will often be the sole provider of anesthesia in area hospitals.  In major metropolitan areas, a nurse anesthetist often has independent procedures and those where he or she works with an anesthesia team.  However, this type of nurse can work independently in procedures ranging from major surgeries like open heart surgery, to more minor surgeries like knee arthroscopy.

Nurse Anesthetist Education

Nurse anesthetists must undergo rigorous training to become certified in this specialty.  The general requirements to become a certified nurse anesthetist include:

  • A Bachelor of Science in Nursing
  • An active license in registered nursing
  • At least one year of acute care nursing experience
  • A master’s degree  from a nurse anesthetist program and the program must be properly accredited
  • Successful completion of the national certification examination

On average, it takes about seven years of education and training to become a nurse anesthetist, with 24 to 36 months being your actual nurse anesthetist program.  The total time starts with your bachelor’s degree and ends when you take your national certification examination.  The following didactic requirements are necessary to become a nurse anesthetist:

  • Pharmacology of adjuvant drugs and anesthetic drugs, chemistry and biochemistry (105 hours)
  • Pathophysiology and anatomy and physiology (135 hours)
  • Professional aspects of nurse anesthesia (45 hours)
  • Principles of anesthesia practice, equipment technology, physics and pain management (105 hours)
  • Research (30 hours)
  • Clinical and correlation conferences (45 hours)

Many programs will also require a set amount of hours in statistics and methods of scientific inquiry.  The research requirement is often a mix of faculty-sponsored research and student-generated research.

You will also participate in a clinical residency that will provide you with a median of 1,651 hours, but the exact hours will be set by your individual program.  This residency is rigorous and will involve test theory, learning anesthesia techniques and applying your knowledge to clinical issues.  You will work with patients of all ages in providing surgical, dental, medical, obstetrical and pediatric interventions.  You will begin by shadowing an experienced nurse anesthetist so that you can learn proper technique and procedure, and then you will begin administering anesthesia and providing the patient care yourself under the supervision of a nurse anesthetist.

Nurse Anesthetist Certification and Licensing

After you complete all required education and training you will sit for your Council of Certification of Nurse Anesthetists examination.  Before you can become a certified nurse anesthetist you must successfully pass this examination.  This test can be taken at various times throughout the year and there are testing centers in all 50 US states.  There is a $700 fee to take this exam.  You will be given at least 100 questions, but could get as many as 170 questions during your examination and you will have three hours to complete the exam.  This test consists of registered nursing knowledge, pathophysiology, anatomy and physiology, the anesthesia administration process, principles of anesthesia and anesthesia complications.

Your certification is recognized for two years and then you must recertify.  To recertify, you must complete 40 anesthesia-related continuing education hours, have no physical or mental limitations to perform the job and you must have worked in nursing anesthesia for the two years prior to recertifying.

Nurse Anesthetist Job Outlook

The job outlook for nurse anesthetist is said to be excellent, as the need for advanced practice nurses in this specialty is expected to increase throughout the next decade.  Between 2010 and 2020, the the demand for nurse anesthetists is expected to grow between 20 and 28 percent, and this equates to approximately 700,000 new job opportunities in nursing anesthesia.  This rate is much faster than most other careers and the projected growth is partly due to the aging baby boomer population.

There are projected shortages in nurse anesthetists throughout the United States and to keep up with the demand that is continuously increasing, it is estimated that their will be a distinct shortage by the year 2020.  There needs to be a three percent growth rate each year to avoid the shortage, but this is not expected to happen.

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