What Is It REALLY Like Being a Nurse Anesthetist? (2023)

What Is It REALLY Like Being a Nurse Anesthetist? (1)

Having spent a healthy amount of time in the working world, you now know there’s no such thing as “a typical day in the life” of a registered nurse (RN). There are more than 100 potential specializations RNs can choose from, all of which are paired with their own unique set of daily duties. A hospice nurse, for example, will likely have drastically different on-the-job experiences than an operating room nurse.

The variety of different opportunities that await nurses is one element that draws healthcare hopefuls into this dynamic career path—if you start working in one sector of nursing, you’re far from locked into that specialty for the entirety of your career.

Whether you’re someone who is constantly in search of something new to challenge you or you’re just not the type who likes to stick with the same old thing for too long, you may be reaching a point where you’re wondering what’s next for your nursing career.

Working as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) could be the perfect solution for your healthcare career aspirations. Considered to be among the most advanced and highest-paid of all nursing professions, you could experience the sense of professional autonomy and high-stakes excitement you’re looking for as a CRNA. Read on to learn more about life as a nurse anesthetist.

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What is a CRNA?

A type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), anesthesiologist nurses—or nurse anesthetists—are responsible for administering anesthesia to patients. These healthcare professionals work independently, regularly serving as the sole anesthetist within a medical practice or healthcare facility. In fact, the advanced training required puts nurse anesthetists on a level similar to physicians, making this specialty quite unique among other nursing careers.

Nurse anesthetist job duties

Nurses working in this sphere care for patients before, during and after medical procedures. The CRNA is responsible for evaluating the patient to help determine the best anesthetic plan for them, according to Nick Angelis,CRNAandauthor. The next step is to prepare the room with the right equipment for the surgery or procedure and whatever follows.

Once the nurse anesthetist administers the anesthetic to the patient, they’re responsible for monitoring his or her vitals throughout the procedure. The job does not end until the patient has fully recovered from the effects of anesthesia.

Nurse anesthetists will typically work in hospitals, pain clinics, trauma or surgical centers, plastic surgery clinics, podiatry clinics or dental clinics. The anesthesia delivered by CRNAs can be administered via gas, intravenous liquids or oral medication. The intent can be to provide twilight sleep for minor procedures, localized pain relief for outpatient procedures or pain management procedures for patients suffering from chronic pain or trauma.

Nurse anesthetist salary

Certified nurse anesthetists earned a 2017 median annual salary of $165,120, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.* This ranks them among the highest paid of all the 100+ nursing specialties. At a glance, it may be difficult for some to deduce why nurse anesthetists see such a significant salary hike compared to other nursing specialties—they spend most of their days just sitting and monitoring patient vitals, right?

(Video) How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) | Degrees, ICU, Certificates, CRNA Programs, Clinical Sites

While that’s generally true, it can be helpful to weigh what’s actually at stake during those hours of monitoring. When put under anesthesia, patients’ lives are quite literally in the hands of the anesthesiologist—if something goes wrong, they’re often one of the first to know and must act both accordingly and quickly.

Angelis explains that while CRNAs work closely with physicians, their input carries a lot of weight and responsibility in these situations. “Although my personality is laid back, at work I know where all of my equipment and drugs are and can respond to an emergency or a change in patient status instantly,” he says. This ability to think and work under pressure is vital.

Patients can possess a number of different risk factors when it comes to anesthesia, such as sleep apnea, high blood pressure, seizures, alcoholism and smoking. Details like this must remain top of mind throughout the procedure. Good CRNAs develop a sort of sixth sense that allows them to detect when something may be wrong with a patient based on a small abnormality in their vitals.

The future of CRNA jobs

Healthcare services in general are undergoing an increase in demand among our aging U.S. population. Because APRNs are qualified to perform many of the same duties as physicians, these top-tier nurses will be in particularly high demand.

In fact, employment for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives and nurse practitioners—all types of APRNs—is projected to grow 31 percent by 2026 by the BLS.* That’s more than four times the average of all occupations nationwide. It should also be noted that the need for CRNAs is significantly higher in rural communities where physicians are often in short supply.

(Video) How Much Money Do CRNAs Really Make?

What does it take to work as a CRNA?

As you might guess, not just any RN is qualified to take up post in one of the highest-paid nursing specializations out there—the CRNA credentials must be properly earned so we can all rest assured that our lives will be in good hands should we ever require anesthesiology.

Nurse anesthetist requirements

All nurse anesthetists get their start by first earning their RN credential. This, as you likely already know, can include either pursuing an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) or a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN). All APRNs must obtain their RN licensure before pursuing education for their advanced practice role of choice. It should also be noted that most APRN programs prefer candidates with a BSN, though others may offer bridge programs for RNs with just an ADN.

Most nurse anesthetist positions consider a Master’s degree to be the minimum required education, but many APRNs opt to pursue a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Ph.D. It’s also true that accredited nurse anesthetist programs often require prospective students to have at least one year of clinical experience as a prerequisite for admission.

Most states agree that in order to work as an APRN, regardless of specialization, candidates must complete a graduate degree from an accredited program, be a licensed RN and pass a national certification exam. Some states also prefer that candidates earn a second license specific to their desired APRN role, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS).

Nurse anesthetist skills

Proficiency in their duties related to administering anesthesia and monitoring vital signs is of utmost importance, but there are a number of other skills required of the most successful nurse anesthetists. Angelis notes that one of the major differentiators between CRNAs and RNs is the specialized responsibilities required of the former. He maintains that nurse anesthetists will be expected to master certain technical skills such as arterial line placement, tracheal intubation, spinals and epidurals.

(Video) What is a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and What Do They Do?

To get a better grasp on the skills required of CRNAs, we used real-time job analysis software to examine more than 9,000 nurse anesthetist job postings from the last year. Aside from a strong grasp of anesthesiology, the majority of CRNA job openings sought candidates with proficiency in the following areas:**

  • Surgery
  • Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS)
  • Patient care
  • Pain management
  • Airway management
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR)
  • Postoperative care
  • Teaching ability
  • Critical care

Is a career as a nurse anesthetist right for you?

If you’re looking for an advanced, high-stakes and well-compensated nursing specialty that will keep you on your toes, you might consider pursuing a career as a CRNA. From the excitement of working in environments like the operating room to the level of professional autonomy that almost rivals that of physicians, working as a nurse anesthetist could be the perfect fit for a go-getter like you.

Whether you have yet to earn your RN licensure or you’re looking to level up to a Bachelor’s degree in Nursing, it’s never too late to work toward a career as a CRNA. Your first step will be getting established as a RN—and Rasmussen University can help you get there. Learn more about the Rasmussen University Nursing degree programs by visiting our article, “10 Facts You Didn’t Know About the Rasmussen University Nursing Programs.”

*Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, [career information accessed November 6, 2018] www.bls.gov/ooh/.
**Source: Burning-Glass.com (analysis of 9,707 nurse anesthetist job postings, Oct. 01, 2017 – Sep. 30, 2018)
EDITOR’S NOTE: This article was originally published in August 2015. It has since been updated to include information relevant to 2018.


How do you answer the question why do you want to be a CRNA? ›

"I want to be a nurse anesthetist because I want to pursue my passion of caring for other people during sensitive times. I believe my compassion and patience can help me provide the best care for every patient under my supervision.

Is CRNA an introvert? ›

Introverts, sure: Strong communication skills are essential for CRNAs, who "interact with patients and medical personnel on a daily basis," All CRNA Schools explained. "You can be an introvert, but you must be able to develop a good rapport with people.

What unique element will you bring to the profession of nurse anesthesia? ›

Adapts to Differing Personalities

The best CRNAs not only enjoy working with a wide range of personalities, they thrive on it – finding the best ways to communicate and provide care with each new person. Strong communication skills and openness to taking people as they are can help.

What makes a good nurse anesthetist? ›

Professionalism, quick critical thinking, and problem solving skills are key traits for successful CRNAs. Certified registered nurse anesthetists are also required to complete ongoing education throughout their careers.

How do you know if CRNA is right for you? ›

If you have a mind for science, have always excelled in critical thinking skills, and are somewhat of an introvert, you should be a CRNA. Everyone wants a career that's at least a little bit challenging, but you don't want to struggle through every day at work!

Why are CRNAs paid so much? ›

Medical reimbursement historically (and currently) slants heavily towards procedures with codes you can bill for. Things like office visits don't generate revenue. Because anesthesia is 100% procedure based, it reimburses well. That's why we (anesthesiologists) as well as they (CRNAs) and AAs get reimbursed well.

Can CRNAs make 300k? ›

Salary or hourly pay all depends on where you work. A lot of CRNAs work prn and make about 100/hr on average on top of the normal job. It varies widely though. So, technically it is possible to work enough hours to make 300k a year making the average CRNA salary.

Is CRNA low stress? ›

Being a CRNA is a highly stressful job. When you are a CRNA, your patient's life is in your hands. The decisions you make can be life or death. A CRNA needs to be able to think clearly during stressful situations and work well under pressure.

Are CRNAs happy? ›

At CareerExplorer, we conduct an ongoing survey with millions of people and ask them how satisfied they are with their careers. As it turns out, nurse anesthetists rate their career happiness 3.8 out of 5 stars which puts them in the top 16% of careers.

Is it hard to be a nurse anesthetist? ›

CRNA school is one of the most difficult schools to get into and complete. Students must dedicate a tremendous amount of time to studying concepts and principles of their programs if they want to become Certified Registered Nurses Anesthetists.

What does a CRNA do in a day? ›

CRNAs are trained to maintain vigilance while providing anesthesia so they can recognize and immediately respond to any change in patient condition. CRNAs collaborate with surgeons, dentists, physicians and all other members of the health care team to make an individualized anesthesia plan for each patient.

How many hours do CRNAs work a week? ›

A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) typically works two 24-hour long shifts per week. There are some settings which a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) may work 8 or 12-hour shifts, but 24-hour shifts are also common.

What soft skills do you need to be a nurse anesthetist? ›

Candidates must be able to tolerate physically taxing workloads and to function effectively under stress. They must be able to adapt to changing environments, display flexibility, and learn to function in the face of uncertainties inherent in the clinical problems of many patients.

How long does it take to be a nurse anesthetist? ›

Becoming a CRNA is a multi-step process that will take you about seven to eight years to complete. The qualifications for entrance into a CRNA program require that you're licensed as a registered nurse and have acute care clinical experience.

Is CRNA school harder than med school? ›

While the CRNA degree is challenging, most health care professionals would agree that medical school for doctors is far more rigorous.

Is CRNA school harder than nursing school? ›

It was difficult because they had much more difficult undergrad science classes than we did. That is why I always recommend that if you think your nursing program was weak in biochemistry and math, to take some remedial work before even considering anesthesia. It is much harder than nursing school.

Which is better CRNA or NP? ›

Compensation. As senior healthcare positions, both CRNAs and NPs often earn competitive salaries. However, working as a CRNA is the more lucrative career path. The average salary for a nurse practitioner is $113,484 per year , while the average certified registered nurse anesthetist makes $176,509 per year .

Do CRNA make more than doctors? ›

Rough estimates have anesthesiologists earning an average of $360,000 while CRNAs (specialty nurses in anesthesiology) average about $170,000, which is more than some primary care doctors.

Where do nurse anesthetists make the most money? ›

Best-Paying States for Nurse Anesthetists

The states and districts that pay Nurse Anesthetists the highest mean salary are Oregon ($236,540), Wisconsin ($231,520), Wyoming ($231,250), Nevada ($223,680), and Connecticut ($217,360).

Can a CRNA make millions? ›

Each year, CRNAs provide 50 million patients with anesthetics. They also earn the highest salaries of all advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), making over six figures annually.
Highest-Paying Workplaces for Nurse Anesthetists.
Workplace SettingAverage Salary
General Medical and Surgical Hospitals$212,340
4 more rows

What percentage of nurse anesthetists are male? ›

Men are more likely to be found in highly-paid nursing occupations. Although women make up a disproportionate share of all nursing occupations, men's representation is highest among nurse anesthetists. About 41 percent of nurse anesthetists are men.

Can nurses make 6 figures? ›

Can Nurses Make Six Figures? Yes, you can 100% make six figures as a nurse. The disclaimer is that working in some states may make this easier than working in other states. Geographic location is a huge indicator of starting salary and can be a reason why some of you are not as close to others when looking at raw data.

What kind of nurse makes the most money? ›

Highest Paid Nursing Jobs:
  • Family Nurse – $113,000.
  • Urgent Care Nurse – $113,000.
  • Oncology Nurse – $113,000.
  • Orthopedic Nurse – $115,000.
  • Cardiac Nurse – $116,000.
  • Emergency Room Nurse – $116,000.
  • Neonatal Nurse – $127,000.
  • Nurse Anesthetist – $189,000.
11 May 2022

Is CRNA school a lot of math? ›

We had a semester long class of Chemistry and Physics of Anesthesia. It was mainly focused on Gas/Fluid Laws and their application to anesthesia; but there was some math. Generally the math is nothing more complicated than the med calcs you did in nursing school.

Is 40 too old for CRNA school? ›

You are not too old to become a CRNA. I don't think you are ever to old to go back to school. Regardless... in 7 years you will be 46, whether you become a CRNA or not. If it's truly your passion then go for it... you don't want to be sitting around at 46 regretting that you didn't go back to school.

What percent of nurses are nurse anesthetists? ›

There are over 40,327 certified registered nurse anesthetists currently employed in the United States. 59.6% of all certified registered nurse anesthetists are women, while 40.4% are men.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Tenure.
Number or YearsPercentages
3-4 years14%
2 more rows

What is the most money a CRNA can make? ›

Top 10 highest-paying states for nurse anesthetists
RankStateAverage CRNA Salary
2New Jersey$263,850
4West Virginia$247,650
6 more rows
10 May 2022

What is the acceptance rate for CRNA school? ›

CRNA School Acceptance Rate

Acceptance rates to CRNA School vary quite a bit: from 6% to 63% of applicants accepted. The average acceptance rate is 24%.

Can nurse anesthetist be travel nurses? ›

Just like with permanent positions, traveling CRNAs can administer anesthesia in a variety of inpatient or outpatient settings. But these temporary assignments can add flexibility, extra income, travel benefits, and other lifestyle perks to your career options.

Do CRNAs wear white coats? ›

Do CRNAs wear white coats? They do! They are sometimes even confused with doctors or medical students because they wear similar white coats.

Do CRNAs have free time? ›

Freedom to Travel

CRNAs can do this by taking travel assignments which often include free lodging and an amenity stipend. Travel positions are available in almost every state and major city.

Do you get breaks in CRNA school? ›

Fall Break Vlog | How many breaks do we get in CRNA school? - YouTube

Do CRNAs insert central lines? ›

They are responsible for administering anesthesia and sedation, monitoring the patient during a procedure, and inserting central lines and epidurals.

Can CRNAs put in chest tubes? ›

There are many CRNA very capable inserting chest tubes. And don't get me wrong, I do like working with MDA and DOA. As long as they stay out of my room. But not every physician is the same.

Does a nurse anesthetist intubate? ›

The responsibilities and duties of a CRNA may vary depending on the setting, but in all cases, a CRNA can provide high level local and general anesthetics, intubate, and perform epidural, spinal and nerve blocks.

How do I write a personal statement for CRNA school? ›

CRNA School Personal Statement - YouTube

What should I know for a CRNA interview? ›

General Questions
  • Why do you want to become a CRNA? (This question WILL be asked. ...
  • What would make you a successful CRNA?
  • Tell us about yourself and your experience.
  • Tell us about your strengths and weaknesses?
  • How do you describe success?
  • How do you handle conflict? ...
  • What leadership experience do you have?

How do I prepare for a CRNA interview? ›

General CRNA job interview questions
  1. What are your greatest strengths?
  2. What are your biggest weaknesses?
  3. Where do you see yourself in five years?
  4. Besides your work, what's something you're passionate about in your life?
  5. Do you have any hobbies?
  6. What do you do to manage stress at work or in your free time?
2 Apr 2022

What is the difference between a CRNA and anesthesiologist? ›

The main difference between CRNAs and anesthesiologists is that CRNAs are nurses while anesthesiologists are physicians. CRNAs have a three-year degree in nursing (DNP or MSN) while anesthesiologists have a four-year medical degree and spent an additional four years in residency.

How long should a CRNA essay be? ›

Ideally, most programs are going to give you a length. Maybe it's two pages, but you want to still make sure, even if you have all this stuff to share, that you're being succinct, concise, brief, and to the point.

How do I write a CRNA school essay? ›

How to Write Your Personal Statement For CRNA School ... - YouTube

What should I ask my CRNA? ›

When should you aim to get your first experience?
  • Why should I prioritize shadow experience?
  • What if my school doesn't require shadowing experience?
  • Get to KNOW what a day in the life of a CRNA is like.
  • What if you can not find a shadow experience?
  • Has COVID messed up all your plans of shadowing?
23 Mar 2021

How difficult is nurse anesthetist program? ›

CRNA school is one of the most difficult schools to get into and complete. Students must dedicate a tremendous amount of time to studying concepts and principles of their programs if they want to become Certified Registered Nurses Anesthetists.

What should I wear to a CRNA school interview? ›

Wear a suit and tie with polished dress shoes. Choose a fairly neutral and dark color, as dark colors are classier and more formal. Black, gray or navy blue are great choices. Wear a neutral color shirt – white is a popular choice.

How do I prepare for a pacu interview? ›

PACU Nurse Interview Questions
  1. Describe an encounter you had with an extremely difficult patient. ...
  2. Tell me about a breakthrough moment you had with a patient who was difficult or uncooperative. ...
  3. Talk about a time when a patient's family was especially pleased with the care you provided.
27 Dec 2019

Will CRNAs replace anesthesiologists? ›

CRNAs don't replace anesthesiologists any more than NPs replace physicians. They do the work they are qualifyied to do and support physicians to practice at their full extent.

Why are CRNAs paid so much? ›

Medical reimbursement historically (and currently) slants heavily towards procedures with codes you can bill for. Things like office visits don't generate revenue. Because anesthesia is 100% procedure based, it reimburses well. That's why we (anesthesiologists) as well as they (CRNAs) and AAs get reimbursed well.

Are CRNA salaries decreasing? ›

The average income for CRNAs is projected to remain at about the same rate as the previous five years.


1. Career Profile - Nurse Anesthetist
(Loma Linda University Health)
2. Become a Nurse Anesthetist in 2021? Salary, Jobs, Education
3. "Be A Nurse. Be A Nurse Anesthetist"
(American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology)
4. A day in the life of Anesthesia: CRNA vlog
(The Wild Fam)
5. The Reasons To Not Become A CRNA
(Thrive CRNA)
6. Nurse Anesthetist Information Night
(University at Buffalo School of Nursing)
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