Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

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A certified registered nurse anesthetist or CRNA is an advanced practice registered nurse who has earned a master’s degree or Ph.D. in nursing. CRNAs are licensed to administer anesthesia to patients undergoing surgery; they primarily work in rural areas and in underserved communities since their services are more cost-effective than anesthesiologist, without compromising the quality of care. CRNAs also provide pain management services. Their expertise allows them to administer all types of anesthesia for any type of surgery. CRNA opportunities continue to rise since people are living longer and require more health care procedures.

According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, CRNAs are highly skilled disciplines who are competent to deliver anesthesia to every type of patient. They are able to work on an individual basis or alongside anesthesiologists. Their high level of training qualifies them to deliver safe and effective care for pre-operative, intra-operative and post-operative patients.

Nurses were the first health care workers to administer anesthesia in the United States. During the era of Florence Nightingale, nurses began administering anesthesia to civil war soldiers during operative procedures in the form of ether or chloroform. Surgeons noted how nurses' dedication to monitoring patients receiving anesthesia during procedures lowered their mortality and morbidity rates. Young medical interns weren't as attentive to this task since they were more interested in watching the surgeons perform the surgeries - which caused many complications with patients.

Education Requirements

In order to become a CRNA, a registered nurse must complete a Master's of Science in nursingdegree or PhDin nursing program with a focus on Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. A CRNA program teaches students to think critically and make evidenced based decisions for their patients. A typical Masters in Science CRNA program entails a 28 month full-time curriculum for 89 credit hours. There are Post-Master’s CRNA certificate programs available for registered nurses who already hold a master’s degree in nursing. After completing graduate studies, a nurse is eligible to take the Certification for Nurse Anesthetist exam for licensure.

Job Description & Duties

These days, CRNAs in the U.S. administer 33 million anesthetics each year. Apart from working in operating rooms, they also work as pain management specialists and are the first to respond to emergency care.

CRNAs can perform the following tasks:

  • A CRNA delivers anesthesia and manages patient care before and after receiving anesthesia.
  • Performs pre-operative assessments, including history and physical.
  • Reviews lab data and past diagnostic testing to help evaluate safety and type of anesthesia to administer.
  • Obtains informed consents from patients, explaining risks and benefits of anesthesia.
  • Develops a plan of care specific to patient assessment for safe delivery of anesthesia.
  • Initiates induction of anesthesia and monitors patients’ physiological responses to anesthesia during surgical procedures.
  • Monitors ventilation statues during surgery.
  • Monitors vital signs and cardiovascular status during procedures.
  • Collaborates with members of the health care team to improve patient outcomes and health care workers delivery performance.
  • Works to update policy and procedures for improved patient care and treatments.
  • Takes steps to minimized risk of infection to patient and staff members.
  • Administers pain management therapies in the form of blocking agents.

Job Outlook and Salary

The job outlook for CRNAs is excellent and they will continue to be in demand since CRNAs will be the primary providers for anesthesia in government, military and rural hospitals and clinics in the future. CRNAs have one of the highest salaries of all advance practice registered nurses. Average beginning salaries start at $110,000 and can be as high as $200,000 for an experienced CRNA. Due to shortages of CRNAs in certain geographical regions, CRNAs have the opportunity to work as locums. Locum CRNAs are paid an hourly rate at approximately $95 to $105 per hour.


The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (www.aana.com) – founded in 1931, this is a professional organization that embodies 45,000 CRNAs and CRNA students all across the country. This agency promulgates education, education and guidelines to both private and governmental educating bodies. It was in the year 1945 that the AANA imposed a certification process and three years later, in 1978, they have come up with the recertification procedures. AANA’s motto is Safe and Effective Anesthesia Care.

National Board of Certification & Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (http://www.nbcrna.com/

CRNA News (www.crnanews.com) – access this link for the freshest news regarding CRNAs. 

Written by

Carrie Cronkite BSN, RN

Carrie has been a registered nurse for 14 years and works at a local hemodialysis outpatient center. She has experience in cardiac nursing, orthopedic rehabilitation and [...]