What is a Nurse Anesthesiologist?

Nurse AnesthetistAlthough there are many advanced nursing specialties today, the role of the nurse anesthesiologist is one of the oldest. First established in the late 19th century, this is an important and respected clinical nursing role. Nurse anesthesiologists work with patients before, during and after surgeries or other procedures that require anesthesia.

Role and Duties

Anyone who has ever experienced surgery as a patient knows how important it is to feel assured of competent care from everyone in the room. This includes all physicians, technicians and of course nurses, including the nurse anesthesiologist. As an anesthesiologist, you would have the important role of staying with a patient throughout an entire procedure. It’s essential that a patient’s bodily functions be monitored so that the anesthesia can be administered in the safest and most effective way.

According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse anesthesiologists work with patients in all types of surgeries as well as with women in labor. They have an important role to play in surgery. They assess a patient’s needs, help educate the patient, prepare and administer the actual anesthesia and maintain it during the procedure so that the patient stays comfortable. A nurse anesthesiologist also helps the patient postoperatively in the recovery period.

Training and Education

Since it’s such an important role, the training and certification process for becoming a nurse anesthesiologist is rigorous. You must first have a bachelors degree in nursing or another related field. Once you pass your licensing degree and become a registered nurse (RN) you must also work for at least a year in acute care in order to be able to enter an accredited nurse anesthesiologist program. This will be a graduate degree that takes between two and three years to complete. During your graduate program, you will take coursework as well as participating in clinicals to gain practical skills. Once you have received your masters degree, you can take the national exam to qualify as a certified nurse registered nurse anesthesiologist (CRNA).

Job Outlook and Places Where CRNAs Work

There is a high demand for well-trained, competent CRNAs. Many hospitals have come to recognize the value and cost effectiveness of hiring nurse anesthesiologists, with the result that it is one of the best paying jobs in nursing. The Bureau of Labor Statistics lists the median annual salary for CRNAs at over $148,000.

Of course where you work will determine your actual salary, and there are a variety of places you may end up working in this field. Many nurse anesthesiologists work in rural hospitals, often as the only anesthesiologists. Even in city hospitals that have other anesthesiologists on staff, however, there is still a demand for CRNAs. Nurse anesthesiologists may work in physicians’ or dentists’ offices as well as hospitals.

Related Resource: Nurse Educator

Regardless of where you end up working as a CRNA, you can be assured that your role is an important one. You will have the privilege of helping patients from start to finish during a critical time of their care. Working as a nurse anesthesiologist can be rewarding on many levels.

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