A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) could...

Monitor a patient's heart beat, blood gases, and other vital signs during surgery. monitoring vitals Inject an anesthetic into a woman's spine to relieve her pain during labor. spine in back
Comfort and relax a child who is about to go in to surgery. child in hospital bed Intubate a patient to ensure their airway stays open and their body gets oxygen. intubated
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Key Facts & Information

Overview Pain is something that no one enjoys or wants to remember, especially during surgery. Certified registered nurse anesthetists, who share virtually identical responsibilities with anesthesiologist assistants, are key members of anesthesia healthcare teams. Working independently, or under the supervision of an anesthesiologist (a medical doctor), they prepare patients for anesthesia, administer anesthesia, monitor patients closely during surgery, and monitor patients' progress after surgery. They might also be called upon to help relieve pain in intensive care units, labor and delivery suites, and pain care clinics.
Key Requirements Highly observant, detail-oriented, meticulous, and logical; a calm, compassionate, reassuring manner; outstanding communication skills; and the ability to withstand high-pressure environments
Minimum Degree Master's degree
Subjects to Study in High School Biology, chemistry, physics, geometry, algebra II, pre-calculus; if available, physiology
Median Salary
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
U.S. Mean Annual Wage
Min Wage
Projected Job Growth (2014-2024) Average (7% to 13%) In Demand!
Related Occupations
Source: O*Net

Training, Other Qualifications

Becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) takes at least seven years of full-time experience and education.

Education and Training

Individuals first need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or bachelor's degree in another appropriate subject, and should have at least one year of experience as a registered nurse in acute care nursing.

Following undergraduate work, prospective nurse anesthetists earn a Master of Science (MS) degree, Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree from a school of nurse anesthesia, which includes clinical experience with multiple methods of anesthesia. After that, nurse anesthetists must pass a national certification exam.

Other Qualifications

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) should have the ability to pay close attention to detail and the desire to help others. They should also be organized, level-headed, active listeners, and good record-keepers. The ability to work well in pressure-packed situations is a must. It is quite beneficial if nurse anesthetists have a calm and reassuring demeanor, even in stressful times.

Watch this video of a nurse anesthetist at Duke Medicine to get an in-depth look at the critical roles Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists play in healthcare.

Nature of the Work

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice nurses who are certified to safely provide anesthesia care to more than 22 million surgical, obstetrical, and trauma patients each year in the United States. They administer every type of anesthetic, work in every type of practice setting, and provide care for every type of operation or procedure— from open heart surgery to pain-management programs.

CRNAs provide anesthetics to patients, in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists, and other qualified healthcare professionals. As advanced practice nurses, they are given a high degree of autonomy and professional respect.

Nurse anesthetists have been providing anesthesia in the U.S. for over 125 years, beginning with their care of wounded soldiers during the Civil War. There currently are more than 36,000 nurse anesthetists in the U.S., approximately 45 percent of whom are men (as compared with 8 percent men in the nursing profession as a whole). CRNAs are the sole providers of anesthesia in approximately two-thirds of all rural hospitals in the United States, enabling these healthcare facilities to offer obstetrical, surgical, and trauma-stabilization services. In some states, CRNAs are the sole providers in nearly 100 percent of the rural hospitals.

Work Environment

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) practice in a variety of settings in the private and public sectors, and in the U.S. military, including traditional hospital operating rooms, ambulatory surgery centers, pain clinics, and physicians' offices. They practice on a solo basis, in groups and collaboratively. Some CRNAs have independent contracting arrangements with physicians or hospitals.

They might work long hours and be in a rather stressful environment most of the time, as most patients are a bit apprehensive about having surgery performed.

On the Job

  • Manage patients' airway or pulmonary status using techniques such as endotracheal intubation, mechanical ventilation, pharmacological support, respiratory therapy, and extubation.
  • Assess patients' medical histories to predict anesthesia response.
  • Prepare prescribed solutions and administer local, intravenous, spinal, or other anesthetics following specified methods and procedures.
  • Select, order, or administer anesthetics, adjuvant drugs, accessory drugs, fluids or blood products as necessary.
  • Develop anesthesia care plans.
  • Monitor patients' responses, including skin color, pupil dilation, pulse, heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, ventilation, or urine output, using invasive and noninvasive techniques.
  • Select, prepare, or use equipment, monitors, supplies, or drugs for the administration of anesthetics.
  • Obtain informed consent from patients for anesthesia procedures.
  • Respond to emergency situations by providing airway management, administering emergency fluids or drugs, or using basic or advanced cardiac life-support techniques.
  • Perform or manage regional anesthetic techniques, such as local, spinal, epidural, caudal, nerve blocks and intravenous blocks.

Source: BLS

Companies That Hire Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)s

Explore what you might do on the job with one of these projects...

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Science Fair Project Idea
You might have heard the expression, "Take two aspirin, and call me in the morning." What if instead a doctor said, "Play two video games and call me in the morning"? Would you be shocked? Or think it was time for a new doctor? In this science fair project, you'll investigate whether video games, and other forms of mental distraction, have the power to relieve pain. Read more

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