Surgery without pain. For quite a while, it wasn’t a reality you could look forward to when you needed your appendix taken out or a bullet removed from your leg (it was a very common affliction back then.) What made it possible was the invention of anesthesia. And, in the 1800s, during the Civil War, nurses were the first health care providers to deliver this miracle to soldiers on the battlefield prior to surgery. Today, these nurses are known as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, or CRNAs.
CRNA Job Description
Many nursing students tend to believe that CRNAs work under an anesthesiologist, helping and assisting him with the less technical aspects of providing anesthesia. While this may be the case in some larger hospitals, these nurses can work almost anywhere, including ambulatory surgical centers, plastic surgeon offices and even dentist offices. In rural settings, and even urban offices where the salary for an anesthesiologist is a far reach, these nurses actually work on their own, providing all of the anesthesia-related care patients may need. This includes providing anesthesia, monitoring patients while they are under anesthesia and caring for them as they come out of anesthesia. It also means providing general anesthesia and conducting lab work and tests to verify that a patient can safely be given anesthesia during surgery.
You’ll also be in charge of:
- Assessing patients and talking to them about the role you will play in their surgery so they are comfortable with you
- Creating a plan to determine the type of anesthesia each patient should be given based on their weight and medical history
- Addressing emergencies during surgery and taking care of the patient’s fluid and drug management, life support and airway when necessary
- Keeping track of patient records, scheduling patient visitors, taking inventory of supplies and restocking and medical coding and billing
These anesthesia nurses are needed almost everywhere, and the high demand means a higher pay scale for nurses choosing this path.
Pay Scale for Nurses in Anesthesia
By 2022, the number of jobs available for CRNAs is expected to grow by 25%, creating 35,200 jobs. While the pay scale for nurses will vary depending on location and experience, those that specialize in anesthesia can expect to earn an average of $151,090 a year.
Of course, this doesn’t come easy. In order to become a CRNA, you must first complete at least a master’s degree in anesthesia nursing. This may involve completing CNA training and your bachelor’s degree in nursing first. You must then take your NCLEX-RN exam and the NBCRNA national certification exam. Prior to completing this latter exam, however, you must spend at least one year as a registered nurse, accumulating your acute care experience. This can be done in many different places, the most popular two being the ER and ICU.
In the end, you’ll need to have completed at least seven years of nursing education and experience before you can step into the OR alone and provide anesthesia to your patients. By doing so, however, you’ll be able to earn a very decent salary that is very competitive with other fields in regards to pay scale for nurses.