If you’re exploring different paths to advance your nursing career, you may be considering becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). A CRNA can work in a variety of settings, and in collaboration with a variety of other medical professions, to administer anesthetics to patients who need it. It is an area of nursing with a long and respected history. About 45,000 nurses currently work as CRNAs.
Advanced Practice Nursing
In order to become a nurse anesthetist, one must first be a registered nurse (RN). A CRNA is one of the four types of advanced practice nursing specialties. Advanced practice nurses (APRNs) are nurses who hold advanced nursing degrees, either at the masters or doctoral level. In addition to nurse anesthetists, an advanced practice nurse (APRN) may be a nurse midwife, a clinical nurse specialist, or a nurse practitioner.
In general, in order to become a CRNA, a nurse must have at least a year’s practice in an acute care setting such as an ICU or an emergency room. This is in addition to masters or higher level education. Once a nurse has gained the experience and education needed, they can take the required certification exam. After becoming CRNA, they need to document their practice and do a certain number of continuing education hours every two years in order to maintain certification.
The Role of a CRNA
The delivery of anesthesia is a necessary and beneficial part of many medical and surgical procedures for patients, helping to lessen pain and increase comfort. Many different settings call for the possible administration of an anesthetic, from surgeries to childbirth to dental procedures. So CRNAs may work in all kinds of medical settings, from trauma centers to obstetrics units to dental offices. They are trained to know how to properly administer the necessary anesthetic in a given setting, working in conjunction with a doctor or other medical practitioner. It’s an important role, and can be an especially important one in rural hospitals where there may not be other anesthetists available.
A Respected and Well Paid Position
The CRNA position is a highly respected nursing position, in part because of the importance of the work done and the fact that sometimes CRNAs are the main providers of anesthetics. Within the profession, it is also understood that the quality services CRNAs provide help hospitals to keep down patient and insurance costs. Men make up more than 40 percent of the ranks of nurse anesthetists, a disproportionate percentage compared to men in other nursing areas. This may be due to the level of independence and respect afforded to many nurses in this role, along with the high compensation, on average, for CRNAs. The job outlook for CRNA is also strong.
Though the work of a CRNA is demanding, the rewards and job satisfaction make it an avenue worth looking into as you contemplate the next steps of your nursing career.