How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist

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Written by Kathleen Walder Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Morganne Skinner, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
Nurse anesthetist on the job

If you’re looking for a nursing career with one of the top salaries and more autonomy than most other nursing positions, you should take a look at how to become a nurse anesthetist. Here’s a rundown of what a nurse anesthetist does, what education you need, the job outlook, and the salary.

What Is a Nurse Anesthetist?

The basic definition of a nurse anesthetist is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) trained and certified to administer anesthesia to patients. Depending on the state, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) may have their own practice and work independently. The profession is one of the fastest-growing in nursing. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the job outlook for this position will grow 12% in the next 10 years — much faster than the average for all other occupations. So, if you want to know how to become a CRNA, now is a great time to investigate.

What Is the Difference Between a Nurse Anesthetist and an Anesthesiologist?

You may have heard the term anesthesiologist. That title refers to a physician trained in anesthesia. A nurse anesthetist and an anesthesiologist perform the same tasks, but an anesthesiologist tends to work with more complicated cases in larger hospitals and supervise anesthetists on staff. If you’d like to know how to become a nurse anesthetist with more autonomy, you may want to search for jobs in rural areas where your skills are in great demand and budgets don’t accommodate hiring a nurse anesthetist and an anesthesiologist.

What Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?

A nurse anesthetist administers anesthesia to patients in surgery, labor and delivery, and emergency care. They also work with patients who are in chronic pain to help them improve and maintain their quality of life.

When working on a case, a nurse anesthetist will begin by taking the patient’s medical history and reviewing their chart to formulate an anesthesia plan. During surgery or other procedures, the anesthetist administers the anesthesia, monitors the patient’s vital signs, and manages ventilators.

Understanding how to become a CRNA also involves honing your soft skills. The anesthetist usually sits by the patient’s head during surgery and other procedures, so they often are the one to comfort the patient and help calm their nerves while being responsible for managing his or her airway. They are prepared to assist the surgical team during an emergency. After the procedure, the anesthetist watches the patient and assists in their recovery.

You’ll find anesthetists working in medical and surgical hospitals, outpatient facilities, and in private practice offices with pain management specialists, dentists, plastic surgeons, and other medical professionals.

How Many Years Does It Take to Become a Nurse Anesthetist?

Depending on the state where you practice, becoming a nurse anesthetist takes from 7 to 10 years to complete the education, licensing, and certification. These are the steps to learn how to become a nurse anesthetist.

  • 4 years in a college or university to earn your bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). You can find programs to do this in as little as 32 months.
  • Pass the NCLEX exam to become an RN.
  • 1 to 3 years of clinical experience in a critical care setting such as an intensive care unit.
  • 3 years in an accredited CRNA program to earn a DNP (Doctor of Nursing Practice) or a DNAP (Doctor of Nursing Anesthesia Practice).
  • Pass the NCE certification exam administered by the National Board of Certification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).
  • Apply for and receive a license to practice from your state.

What Is a Nurse Anesthetist Skill Set?

Along with the technical skills taught in classes and experience, a nurse anesthetist needs to have:

  • Problem-solving skills
  • Ability to measure, calculate, reason, and analyze
  • Strong communication and interpersonal skills
  • Ability to work under pressure

How Much Do Nurse Anesthetists Make?

CRNAs have one of the top salaries in nursing. The average is $98.93 per hour or $205,770 annually. Your salary will depend on where you work in the U.S. and what type of facility you work for. The states with the highest salaries for CRNAs are:

  • North Dakota
  • California
  • Connecticut
  • New York
  • Illinois

Have the Best Career and the Best Schedule

Now that you know how to become a nurse anesthetist, you may be interested in advancing your career. IntelyCare gives you control over your work schedule, making it easier for you to go back to school. Learn more and start your application today.