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Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice nurses trained to administer anesthesia to patients undergoing surgery or other procedures. CRNAs meet with patients and initiate a pre-operative interview to determine what anesthesia would be suitable. They answer any questions or concerns, monitor the patient closely under anesthesia, wake the person afterward, and may escort them to the recovery area. Some CRNAs work collaboratively with other anesthesiologists; others can work independently depending on their location, and in some states, a CRNA can prescribe medication independently.

Education Requirements

CRNAs must complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree and successfully pass the state's NCLEX-RN exam. Nurses with ADN degrees will need to obtain their BSN first or combine a BSN to an MSN or BSN to doctoral degree program.  Nurses should have at least a year of experience, preferably with critical care experience, before pursuing a CRNA career. 

CRNAs must complete an MSN; however, by 2025, all CRNAs programs are intending to transition to doctoral training (DNAP).  All programs must be accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) and include all necessary clinical hours.

How to advance/career pathway

After completing your CRNA program, apply and take the CRNA exam to gain certification.


Apply for your state licensure as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN).

Each state has different rules about licensing and certification. You can check your state’s status here and here.


In addition, CRNAs often take out their own malpractice insurance.

RESPONSIBILITIES

  • Evaluate the patient prior to surgery or the procedure
  • Determine the type of anesthesia to administer and maintain proper levels
  • Intubate patient if needed and manage the ventilator
  • Ensure equipment works accurately
  • Monitor vital signs and protect the patient from injury
  • Communicate patient status to the physician and operative staff

MOST COMMON CASES

It entirely depends on the setting.  CRNAs see a wide variety of cases from children to the elderly.

How to become a

Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

  1. Complete an ADN or BSN program in nursing
  2. Pass the NCLEX-RN exam and apply for your RN license
  3. Have one to two years of experience working as an RN preferably in critical care settings
  4. Apply and complete either an MSN (until 2025) or DNAP program to become a CRNA
  5. Apply and take your CRNA exam to gain certification and obtain licensing per your state’s rules.

Specialty Groups and Communities

American Association of Nurse Anesthetists

  • Mission: “The AANA advances patient safety and our profession through excellence in practice and service to members... The AANA is dedicated to advancing its members’ profession and anesthesia patient safety through advocacy, evidence-based practice standards, professional development, and commitment to innovation, collaboration and diverse ideas, experiences, and beliefs.”
  • Cost: $100-300, annually, depending on membership type.
  • Perks: Access to CRNA Advocacy, Professional Practice Support, Public Relations, Publications and Resources, Continuing Education, Support for Nurse Anesthesia Education, Quality and Patient Safety, Research, Member Advantage Program, AANA Insurance Services, and more.

Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

  • Mission: “To grant public recognition to nurse anesthesia programs and institutions that award post master’s certificates, master’s, and doctoral degrees that meet nationally established standards of academic quality (quality assessment); and, to assist programs and institutions in improving educational quality (quality enhancement).”
  • Cost: CRNA Certification Exam costs a one-time fee of $995. 
  • Perks: “The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) is nationally recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as an accrediting agency for the ‘accreditation of institutions and programs of nurse anesthesia at the post-master’s certificate, master’s, or doctoral degree levels in the United States, and its territories, including programs offering distance education.’”

The Pros

  • High degree of autonomy and professional respect. 
  • Enjoys gaining the trust of anxious patients
  • Satisfaction at the end of a surgery that goes well
  • Increased responsibility but still can defer to anesthesiologists if needed.

The Cons

  • Must obtain and maintain more education
  • Increased liability risk and may need malpractice insurance
  • Exposure to bodily fluids and air-borne communicable diseases 
  • Political differences with MD Anesthesiologists at times
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Personality Traits

  • Critical thinker, quick decision-maker
  • Focused, attentive, and calm
  • Works well in stressful situations
  • Excellent communicator
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Average Salary

Nurse Anesthetists typically make between $93k - $189k, with a median salary of $147,237. For the most up-to-date salary information, check out Salary Explorer.

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Work Setting

Hospitals, surgery centers, and physician offices. CRNAs frequently work in rural facilities and in the U.S. armed forces.

Interested in learning more about what it’s like to be a Nurse Anesthetist? We spoke to one to find out. Read What Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?