As a practicing CRNA, I can tell you that becoming a nurse anesthetist was the best decision I ever made. Yes, getting into CRNA school is highly competitive, the program is rigorous, expensive, and the training is stressful. However, it is 100% worth it. Let's talk about 10 reasons you should become a nurse anesthetist (if you are considering it).
It is pretty well known that CRNAs are the highest paid nursing profession. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) in 2021 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists made a mean of $202,470. CRNAs can even make more by doing locums work or working as a 1099 employee. However, keep in mind that as a 1099 employee, although the hourly pay is much higher, you'll need to cover all of your extra expenses such as health care, continuing education, and retirement.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, as of May 2021, the best paying states (mean wages) for CRNAs were as follows:
CRNAs have the ability to practice independently. Most of the time, this depends on which state you live in. Known as opt-out states, these states do not require anesthesiologist supervision. CRNAs are independent providers in most rural locations, as well as in the military. Even in settings where nurse anesthetists are supervised by anesthesiologists, they still enjoy an extremely high degree of autonomy. Many CRNAs work in settings that practice under an ACT model, which means that you have 1 anesthesiologist supervising a certain number of rooms, depending on each facility and State's law.
CRNAs enjoy a high level of professional respect. In the operating room, nurse anesthetists are viewed as leaders. The surgeon cannot operate unless the anesthesia provider states that it is safe to do so. The airway is the most important part of any surgical procedure, and as such, the nurse anesthetist is very well respected in regards to their needs and role.
The job outlook for the CRNA profession is extremely bright. According to the BLS, the nurse anesthetist profession will grow by 15% by 2029, at a rate of 2,900 new positions a year. The Covid 19 pandemic has pushed the limits of our healthcare system, and CRNAs have proved valuable in caring for the sickest of the sick and saving lives during a worldwide crisis. CRNAs are and will continue to be in demand for years to come.
CRNAs care for a wide variety of patient populations, from neonates to geriatrics. If you like working in a fast-paced environment and doing a lot of peripheral nerve blocks, orthopedics is the specialty for you. If you enjoy placing epidurals and spinals, labor and delivery might be a great place for you to work. If you enjoy working with patients who are generally very healthy, and don’t want a lot of call, consider an outpatient plastic surgery center. You can find a job and specialty that fits your lifestyle and interests.
CRNAs have advanced skills such as the ability to intubate, place invasive lines, and do peripheral nerve blocks. Regional anesthesia, which is the ability to perform a peripheral nerve block for intraoperative and post-operative pain management, is a skill in which nurse anesthetists are highly trained. If you are looking at anesthesia schools, definitely inquire with current students as well as program faculty regarding the amount of peripheral nerve block experience their students are getting.
One of my favorite things about being a nurse anesthetist is that I can focus on one patient at a time. There's no more spending 12 hours on roller skates going from room to room, patient to patient. I get to focus on one patient at a time, get to know them really well, and understand how their body responds to certain drugs and interventions.
Nurse anesthetists can work in a variety of settings, such as major teaching hospitals, small community hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, GI centers, dental offices, and even podiatry offices. Each practice setting has its pros and cons with regard to the availability of resources, the amount of call one has to take, as well as the types of patients. Really, there is a setting for everyone!
CRNAs enjoy a high level of job satisfaction. Most CRNAs that you talk to say their only regret is not going back to anesthesia school sooner. Because of the extreme flexibility in practice setting, schedule, and pay, CRNAs are typically very happy with their career choice.
All CRNA programs now are either DNP or DNAP programs. This prepares the future nurse anesthetist with a high level of education and understanding of the research process. Nurse anesthetists in general have a very high degree of critical thinking ability, and a deep understanding of pathophysiology and pharmacology. If you enjoy critical thinking and consider yourself a life-long learner, becoming a CRNA is right for you!
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