What is a Nurse Anesthetist?

A nurse anesthetist (or a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA)), is someone who has completed graduate-level education and has been board certified in anesthesia. They are capable of administering anesthesia under the oversight of an anesthesiologist, surgeon, dentist, podiatrist or other qualified healthcare professional. These advanced practice registered nurses are given a high degree of independence and respect.

What does a Nurse Anesthetist do?

A nurse anesthetist is capable of administering anesthesia under the oversight of an anesthesiologist, surgeon, dentist, podiatrist or other qualified healthcare professional.

A nurse anesthetist (not to be confused with an anesthesiologist assistant) is a specialist within the profession of nursing. They administer anesthesia for all types of cases, in collaboration with physicians and healthcare professionals, from the simplest to the most complex of surgeries. They can be found in many venues, including traditional hospitals, delivery rooms, dentists' offices, ambulatory surgical centres, pain management clinics and battlefields. They are independently licensed health professionals, and are often the sole providers of anesthesia services that offer surgical, obstetrical, and trauma stabilization services in rural hospitals and areas where it would otherwise not be possible. Outside of the operating room, a nurse anesthetist can provide services in other areas, such as lithotripsy units, MRI units, and cardiac catheterization labs. As well, many CRNAs perform administrative functions for the departments of anesthesia, such as personnel and resource management, quality assurance, financial management, and risk management.

A nurse anesthetist (or CRNA) administers anesthesia and anesthesia-related care in four general categories:

  • pre-anesthetic preparation and evaluation
  • anesthesia induction, maintenance and emergence
  • post-anesthesia care
  • peri-anesthetic and clinical support functions

The nurse anesthetist must monitor the patient closely to make any adjustments that are needed in medication dosing. Evaluation of the patient’s blood pressure, heart rate, and other measurements help determine the effectiveness of the anesthesia. The nurse anesthetist is also responsible for maintaining the patient’s airway. This is usually accomplished through the use of an intubation tube. The tube allows the nurse anesthetist to protect and control the airway, thus ensuring that the patient is breathing effectively. They must be able to identify and manage emergency situations, and can initiate and participate in cardiopulmonary resuscitation that involves tracheal intubation, ventilation, airway maintenance, and the management of fluid, blood, electrolyte and acid-base balance.

Some nurse anesthetists hold credentials in fields such as respiratory care or critical care nursing, and some choose to specialize in obstetric, neurosurgical, pediatric, dental or cardiovascular anesthesia services.

Are you suited to be a nurse anesthetist?

Nurse anesthetists have distinct personalities. They tend to be investigative individuals, which means they’re intellectual, introspective, and inquisitive. They are curious, methodical, rational, analytical, and logical. Some of them are also realistic, meaning they’re independent, stable, persistent, genuine, practical, and thrifty.

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What is the workplace of a Nurse Anesthetist like?

The nurse anesthetist can work in a hospital, outpatient surgery clinic, or office-based surgery centre. The environment is clinical and filled with high-tech equipment. The nurse anesthetist will work with other health care members including surgeons, nurses, and operating room technicians. The sterile environment requires the use of masks, gloves, and other personal protective equipment, and the operating room is kept cold to reduce bacteria.

A nurse anesthetist can expect to view live surgical procedures, blood and other body fluids and unpleasant smells. During intubation the nurse anesthetist must insert the intubation tube into the lungs of the patient. They must be comfortable performing this and other medical procedures. In addition, they must meet with and educate patients regarding what to expect from anesthesia before a procedure.

Work hours can vary significantly depending on the normal workload of the institution. Most nurse anesthetists can expect to work between 6am and midnight. They also need to be on call and available at the hospital within 30 minutes, in the event that a patient must have emergency surgery.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the difference between an Anesthesiologist and a Nurse Anesthetist?

An nurse anesthetist is a nurse with extra training (typically two years) in the field of anesthesiology, and has the ability to administer anesthesia. In most surgery centres and hospital settings, they work under the supervision of a board certified anesthesiologist. An anesthesiologist is a physician who has gone through medical school, internship, and then an accredited residency training program in a US hospital.

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How long does it take to become a Nurse Anesthetist?

According to the Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), it generally takes a minimum of seven years of postsecondary education and experience to become a certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA):

• Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) and Registered Nursing (RN) licensure – four years • Minimum Clinical Experience as a an Acute Care RN – one year • Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) – two years*

*Beginning Jan. 1, 2022, nurse anesthetist students must complete an accredited Doctor of Nursing (DNP) program, which typically requires three to four years of study. This change will add one or two years to the typical educational track.

Should I become a Nurse Anesthetist?

The work of nurse anesthetists is rewarding. Relieving patients’ pain is a noble mission. Here are some other facts to know about the profession:

• This career pays very well.

• The demand and job stability for nurse anesthetists are high (partly because they earn only a fraction of what anesthesiologists earn).

• These professionals work in high-risk areas that may expose them to blood borne pathogens and chemicals.

• The role demands excellent physical health and stamina, as nurse anesthetists spend a lot of time on their feet, assisting during long surgeries or procedures.

• The work requires great focus and ability to quickly adapt to changing situations; it requires careful consideration of patient variables that can impact the effects of treatment, including age, weight, prior surgical history, other medications, drinking habits; it demands constant attention to the patient’s vital signs.

• The work can be stressful, as patients who suffer from chronic pain and who experience unexpected adverse reaction to anesthesia or fail to respond to treatments can be emotionally draining to providers.

• The best nurse anesthetists are exceptionally perceptive; they understand that each patient responds to pain differently and are aware of even the slightest indications of discomfort; they take into consideration any relevant social, cultural, or language factors that may influence how patients respond.

• Nurse anesthetists must be comfortable working with different personality types, as the role involves interacting with patients, families, physicians, and medical support teams.

• Because medical technology is constantly evolving, these professionals need to be comfortable using sophisticated machinery and training on new equipment as necessary.

• Hours may require night, weekend, holiday, and on-call shifts.

• Potential work settings include hospitals, pain clinics, trauma centers, surgical centers, podiatry clinics, plastic surgery clinics, dental clinics.

Steps to becoming a Nurse Anesthetist

Becoming a nurse anesthetist is a multi-step process of ongoing education, experience, certification, licensing, and recertification.

Nurse Anesthetists are also known as:
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Anesthesia Nurse Anesthesiologist Nurse