Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Careers
For Registered Nurses (RNs) who are seeking an advanced career that offers high earnings potential and highly specialized patient care, look no further than becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. CRNAs are the highest paid of all the nursing specialists, but their compensation is closely aligned to the high-level of skill they must attain. Each case and each patient is unique, and when you’re dealing with anesthetics, every case can literally be a matter of life or death. That’s why precision is so important. In other words, becoming a CRNA is a challenging path and the job isn’t one to take lightly, but there are many career rewards to reap.
According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists ( AANA ) 2013 Practice Profile Survey, CRNAs safely administer more than 34 million anesthetics to patients in the United States every year. Their chief responsibilities include prepping anesthesia and giving it to patients, working alongside surgeons, anesthesiologists, podiatrists, dentists, and other members of the healthcare team.
Being a CRNA, like all nursing specialties, not only requires patient care knowledge and practical skills, but also a good bedside manner. You’ll be working with patients and their families right before, during, and after surgical procedures, which could make for highly stressful situations. Having the right temperament to not only administer the anesthetics precisely in high pressure situations, but to also educate and communicate with the patients is the key for success.
Where the Jobs Are
Most CRNAs find jobs in in offices of physicians, general medial and surgical hospitals, offices of other health practitioners, and outpatient care centers (in that order), according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics . And, unlike some other nursing jobs that are predominately held by females, more than 40 percent of nurse anesthetists are men.
According to the BLS, the expected growth for CRNA employment is 25 percent during the decade of 2012 to 2022. That’s much faster than the average occupation, meaning that the position is in high demand. Like most careers, however, your location can affect the number of job openings available as well as your salary.
The states with the highest employment level for CRNAs are Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. In terms of metro areas, Houston, TX, Minneapolis-St. Paul, MN, and Tampa, FL lead the nation, says the BLS.
The highest paying states are New Hampshire with a $222,060 annual mean wage; Nevada with $216,930; and Wisconsin with $214,150. But the best salary in the nation can be found in the Fort Meyers, FL metro area in which the mean wage is $ $249,610.
Though the high-paying states above look very promising, keep in mind that those figures are well above the reported annual mean salary nationwide, which the BLS reports to be $158,900 as of May 2014. PayScale estimates the amoung to be somewhat lower citing average salaries of $133,000 per year.
Even if you go with the lowest estimate, the salary range for CRNAs is still quite more than a regular staff RNs, who command a median annual wage of $65,470 as of May 2012. Add to that the fact that earning the advanced credentials of CRNA will open up lots of job opportunities, and you can see why many RNs choose this specialty.
How to Become a CRNA
So just how much extra effort is required for those who decide to go the CRNA route? There’s no way around the fact that the extra schooling is extensive, as it should be for so vital a position. To become a CRNA, you must already be an RN whose license is current, and have at least one year of experience in a critical care setting.
At that point, you’ll need to complete a master’s degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia educational program. After finishing the program, you will have to pass a national certification exam. The AANA states that there are 114 accredited nurse anesthesia programs in the United States, 32 of which award doctoral degrees.
These programs take anywhere from 2-3 years to complete, and include clinical training hours.
Once you earn the CRNA designation, you must become recertified every two years by obtaining a minimum of 40 continuing education hours. States may also have other rules for licensure and recertification, so be sure to check with the state in which you practice.
Once you begin working as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, the more experience you gain and the better you get at the position, the more likely you are to advance. That could mean moving up to a higher rank within a team of healthcare specialists, or taking on the role at a more prestigious health care organization.
If you’re considering obtaining an advanced nursing degree and certification, becoming a CRNA will likely give you the biggest return on your investment in terms of income potential and job security. You’ll also hold one of the most respected credentials in the nursing profession.
Dawn Papandrea is a Staten Island, NY-based freelance writer who specializes in personal finance, parenting, and lifestyle topics. Her work has appeared in Family Circle, WomansDay.com, Parents, CreditCards.com, and more.