Nurse anesthetists can use a number of intravenous drugs and inhaled gasses to administer general or regional anesthesia, so surgeons and other physicians can complete procedures with little to no discomfort to the patient. Modern anesthesia has come a long way from the chloroform administered by the first nurse anesthetists in the Civil War. "Anesthesia is safer today than it's ever been," says Frank Gerbasi, a certified registered nurse anesthetist and executive director of the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs.
You might wonder what the difference is between a nurse anesthetist and an anesthesiologist. One way of answering is the education. Nurse anesthetists are registered nurses who specialize in anesthesiology with at least one year of critical care experience and a master's degree, which usually take two years to complete. Anesthesiologists are physicians, and their education track includes a one-year internship, three-year residency and sometimes an additional one- to two-year fellowship. "Both anesthesia specialists use the same techniques and procedures to safely deliver the same types of anesthetic drugs for every type of procedure that requires the patient to receive anesthesia," Gerbasi says.
Gerbasi also describes nurse anesthetists as cost-effective providers because they offer their patients a high quality of health care at a reasonable price. Several factors, including health care reform and the aging baby boom population, are precipitating the demand for more health care providers. And indeed, the BLS predicts that the profession is poised to grow by about 16 percent by the year 2026, which translates into 6,700 new job openings.
The BLS reports that nurse anesthetists made a median salary of $160,270 in 2016. The lowest-paid 10 percent in the profession made $107,960 in 2016, while the top 10 percent earned more than $208,000.
75th Percentile $189,880
25th Percentile $137,800
To become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, professionals must have a bachelor's degree and their registered nurse licensure, which involves taking and passing the National Council Licensure Examination. Additionally, these professionals must have a minimum of one year of experience in a critical care setting. They will then have to complete both a COA-accredited nurse anesthesia program and the national certification exam. And the trend is moving toward more education. According to Gerbasi, in 2025, graduates from nurse anesthesia programs will need to have doctoral degrees.
Average Americans work well into their 60s, so workers might as well have a job that’s enjoyable and a career that's fulfilling. A job with a low stress level, good work-life balance and solid prospects to improve, get promoted and earn a higher salary would make many employees happy. Here's how Nurse Anesthetists job satisfaction is rated in terms of upward mobility, stress level and flexibility.
Opportunities for advancements and salary
Work environment and complexities of the job's responsibilities
Alternative working schedule and work life balance