Working as a registered nurse is an incredibly rewarding and challenging career. While the term “nurse” may be considered all encompassing for non medical professionals, any RN knows there are a wide range of specialties for a nurse to choose from. Some of these specialties are well known whereas others, such as a certified registered nurse anesthetist, aren’t as common.
Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) play a vital role in a patient’s anesthesia care. It’s a specialty that not as many people have heard of, yet remains important to the medical procedures that involve the administration of anesthesia.
Whether you’re looking to change your current specialty or you’re still in school and trying to decide on one, becoming a CRNA is a great option. As a lesser known specialty, though, you may not be as readily familiar with the work involved or the basic facts about CRNAs, so here’s a quick guide with facts about working as a CRNA.
What is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist?
CRNAs are nurses with a master’s degree, though sometimes even a doctorate, that provide anesthesia for any medical procedure. In a number of states, CRNAs work independently as the only anesthetist without a need for supervision. CRNAs do still collaborate and work with surgeons and other medical professionals, but there is no longer a requirement for direct supervision.
The training required to become a CRNA is more challenging and demanding than some other specialities and often puts CRNAs on a similar level as physicians.
In the past few decades, there have been updates to the regulations surrounding CRNA work. One such update in 1968 permits CRNAs to receive 100% direct reimbursement from Medicare. This was updated again in 2020 to prohibit discrimination based on licensure as well, so CRNAs are no less qualified for the reimbursement than anesthesiologists or other physicians.
What Do CRNAs Do?
CRNAs don’t only administer anesthesia. They do a number of things. Depending on where you work and the way your employer runs the workplace, the tasks a CRNA is expected to fulfill will vary.
Some non-anesthesia related tasks that CRNAs may perform include conducting physical assessments of a patient and looking into their medical history, creating and implementing a relevant patient anesthetic care plan, and discussing the side effects of such care with a patient and their family.
CRNAs work with a patient and their family just like any other nurse. As a CRNA, you’ll explain a procedure to a patient and/or their family prior to the operation. Once the operation is finished, you may also be responsible for providing them with the necessary information and protocol for after anesthesia care.
When it comes to anesthesia, CRNAs will administer various types of anesthesia, monitor the patient’s status and vitals, maintain the anesthesia throughout the procedure, administer additional fluids and medications, and perform epidural, spinal, or nerve blocks at any given time.
As a CRNA, you’ll work closely with surgeons and physicians to ensure that a patient is receiving optimal care.
Many recent research studies have brought to life the changing demographics of the CRNA workforce. Zippia conducted one such research project that provides information on everything from the average age to sexuality to where CRNAs are most in demand. Here’s a quick run through of what Zippia covers:
Zippia CRNA Demographics Summary
As of 2021 within the United States, there are a little over 40,000 CRNAs that are currently working at a medical facility. From this number, Zippia reports just under 60% of CRNAs are female while 38% are male. 2.3% chose not to self identify as either male or female.
Most CRNAs are located on the east coast with the largest majority in Pittsburgh, PA and Raleigh, NC despite New York, NY having the highest demand for CRNAs. When it comes to the best state for CRNAs to live and work in, however, North Dakota came in first. Grand Forks, ND has the highest average salary, coming in at over $118,000 annually despite its relatively small size.
As with every career field, there is a gender pay gap for CRNAs. While men earn on average $116,000, women earn roughly 94% of this at $109,000. There were also wage gaps found depending on race with white CRNAs earning the most followed by black or African American CRNAs, hispanic and latino CRNAs, and Asian CRNAs earning the lowest.
Most CRNAs work in private practices, though a large number of them work in education or government facilities as well. Only 6% worked in public medical centers.
Just under 20% of CRNAs identified as LGBT which is considerably higher than other medical positions that were compared. Roughly 8% of child’s nurses and 13% of anesthesiology residents identified as LGBT.
Salary and pay gaps have been mentioned briefly above, but many people wonder about the average salary of A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. As can be expected, there are many factors that influence the actual salary of a CRNA so there is no perfect estimate as to how much you’ll end up making.
What Affects CRNA Salary?
Although not a complete list, here are a few things that will affect your salary as a CRNA.
As you gain more experience, you’ll have more opportunities to increase your salary. When you’re first starting out, expect to make much less than your senior CRNA colleagues that have been working for years. Some starting positions may pay as much as $120,000 annually. After you gain experience, you can expect to earn a higher salary, often closer to $220,000.
Where you choose to live and work will have an impact on your salary. Large cities such as New York, NY pay so high because CRNAs are in high demand. In areas that provide a lot of acute care or teaching facilities, you may also find higher paying opportunities.
This being said, as of 2020, the highest paying states are Oregon, Wisconsin, and Wyoming respectively. Despite not having cities as large as California or the New York-New Jersey area, these states tend to pay over $230,000 annually. Nevada, the fourth highest paying state, pays an average of $223,000 annually.
Type of Employer
CRNAs are important for all types of medical employers, from outpatient centers to hospitals to medical education centers. While every type of employer will have slightly different workloads and challenges, you’ll also find they offer different salaries.
Most CRNAs choose to work in private facilities where the salary tends to be higher. Outpatient care facilities are one of the highest paying centers with an average salary of $225,000. Public hospitals, on the other hand, pay an average of $196,000. Surprisingly, medical education centers pay slightly more with an average of $197,000.
Depending on the type of employer you choose to work for, you can expect a different salary. If you work independently, you’ll be paid differently than if you collaborate with other medical professionals.
Ways to Increase Your Salary as a CRNA
Once you’re working as a CRNA, you may find there are a few ways to increase your salary. Looking into career opportunities at higher paying facilities is always a good start, but if you want to be in a certain place, there are a few things you can do.
Earning extra certifications can improve your chances at earning a higher salary. Additionally, you can earn a bit extra with a doctorate. This is only the case for those who are already in a CRNA school or who have finished and are looking to increase their salary. If you are entering a CRNA school starting in 2022, a doctorate will be a requirement by 2025, meaning you will need one in order to start your career.
How to Become a CRNA
To become a CRNA, you’ll need to first earn your bachelors of science in nursing (BSN). Next, you need to pass your registered nurses exam and complete a masters degree. If you enter a CRNA school during or after 2022, you will also need to plan on completing a doctorate program.
Before you can attend a CRNA school, you should take time to get experience as an RN. This is a common entry requirement for nurse anesthesia programs. Some schools may additionally require a certain amount of experience working in acute care. As entry requirements vary from school to school, be sure to carefully check with your prospective school before applying.
The schooling costs for CRNAs are high, usually around $220,000 not including extra certification fees and the costs for your doctorate. If you go to an out-of-state school, you may have to pay extra fees.
Even with a loan, this is a lot of money which is why there are so few nurses that choose to go this route. With a salary of nearly $200,000+ in most states, many people consider it worthwhile. It’s up to you to make that decision on your own, though, as it is quite the commitment.
Best Traits in a CRNA
There are certain traits that make for a good CRNA just like there are certain traits that make for a good teacher or a good web designer. While you don’t need all of these traits in order to work as a CRNA or even be good at it, they will certainly help your in your work. You may even find that after a few years of experience, you develop these traits.
For some people, it’s easier to earn and grow your hard skills than it is to improve your soft skills, but every CRNA will need to demonstrate certain soft skills. Fortunately, you’ll have the opportunity to work on such skills during your schooling.
If you’re looking at improving your soft skills ahead of time or you simply want to know if you have the personality traits of a good CRNA, here are the best traits for a CRNA to have.
Attention to Details
Administering anesthesia is a very precise job and even the slightest miscalculation can cause complications during a procedure. Careful attention to detail will help a lot with your work.
As you probably already know, there is no such thing as a standard procedure. Every patient will present unique challenges which means that you need to be able to react quickly to anything no matter how unexpected it is.
Sometimes patients lie about their habits and when it comes to anesthesia, this can lead to sudden and catastrophic changes. To prevent a situation from escalating from bad to worse, you’ll need to be able to think on your feet and react quickly. Never assume that any procedure will be easy and without surprises.
No matter where you work or what career you end up in, being able and ready to take initiative is a way to stand out from others. As a CRNA, being able to complete your work without someone guiding you or telling your what to do step by step is important.
Even though CRNAs aren’t supervised in many states, you’ll still need to be able to work with others and be a good team player. While you may not be the surgeon, you’ll still be working with them. The best CRNAs are eager to collaborate with colleagues and work with their coworkers no matter what the situation calls for.
As with every career, CRNAs should be able to communicate with their team during any procedure. In the medical field, miscommunication can lead to major consequences so for the sake of your patient, it’s important that you are able to communicate clearly and professionally with your colleagues.
Becoming a CRNA is a lot of work and requires a lot of schooling, but it’s a very rewarding career path that pays well and is in high demand. You can find job opportunities almost wherever you look and can expect competitive pay and benefits. If you’re interested in a career as a CRNA, the best place to start is with a BSN and the best time to start is now.