How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist

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Anesthesia is an essential part of the medical field that involves using medication to sedate patients for surgical procedures so they do not feel sensation or pain. Nurse anesthetists are specially trained registered nurses that administer anesthesia for a variety of surgical procedures.

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What does a nurse anesthetist do?

Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to surgical patients and provide the necessary care before, during, and after procedures. They also help with the management of pain and assist with emergency procedures. They ensure the patient is as comfortable as possible and record the patients’ vital signs and closely monitor patients for potential reactions. Nurse anesthetists complete physical examinations on patients before and after procedures and provide patients with the essential preoperative and postoperative information. They often work closely with other health care professions such as anesthesiologists, surgeons, and dentists.

What kind of training does a nurse anesthetist need?

Nurse anesthetists must earn a bachelor degree in nursing and become licensed to be a registered nurse by passing a state examination. They then must complete one year of acute nursing care in a surgical or intensive care unit and a master degree in nursing with focus on nurse anesthesia. Prospective nurse anesthetists complete supervised clinical experiences to gain practical understanding on anesthesia techniques and procedures. Nurse anesthetists must gain the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) designation from the National Board on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists. Certification requirements include minimum education and experience and passing a written examination. Nurse anesthetists must complete continuing education to maintain their licenses and certifications.

What are the prospects for a career as a nurse anesthetist?

Employment of all registered nurses is expected to grow much faster than average for all professions, increasing 23% from 2006 to 2016 (1). The growing and aging population and increased need for sophisticated procedures will drive job growth.

Job prospects are expected to be excellent especially for nurse anesthetists with extensive experience and professional certification. Numerous job openings will arise from the need to replace nurse anesthetists that retire, transfer, or leave the field for other reasons.

How much do nurse anesthetists make?

As of December 2009, the middle 50% of nurse anesthetists earn annual salaries between $136,759 and $156,998. The top 10% earn annual salaries of more than $166,380 (2).

A career as a nurse anesthetist is a great choice for people with a strong interest in administering anesthesia and caring for patients during a variety of surgical procedures. Nurse anesthetists must have a solid understanding of anesthesia administration and the monitoring of patients under the influence of anesthesia. They must have excellent bedside manner and be able to make patients feel at ease. Patience, detail orientation, eye-hand coordination, and good judgment are essential characteristics. Nurse anesthetists must have excellent communication and the ability to work as part of a team. They must be able to work under stress and make effective decisions in emergency situations.

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