Nurse Anesthesia as a Career

As a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), you are an advanced practice nurse who is trained to safely provide anesthesia services to surgical, obstetrical, and trauma patients. You collaborate with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists, and other qualified health care professionals to provide anesthesia and related care before and after medical procedures. In addition, you may provide pain management and emergency services, such as airway management. When anesthesia is administered by a nurse anesthetist, it is recognized as the practice of nursing; when administered by an anesthesiologist, it is considered the practice of medicine. Regardless, all anesthesia professionals deliver anesthesia in the same way.

All advanced practice nursing specialties, including nurse anesthetists, require advanced education that incorporates classroom instruction and supervised clinical experience in hospitals and other health care facilities. You will take courses in anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry and biochemistry, pharmacology, nutrition, psychology and other behavioral sciences, and nursing. Principles of anesthesia practice, including physics, equipment, technology, and pain managment are also covered. You may also be required to study methods of scientific inquiry and statistics and participate in student and/or faculty research.

Supervised clinical experience takes you into hospital departments such as pediatrics, psychiatry, maternity, and surgery, where you learn anesthesia techniques, test theories, and apply your knowledge to clinical problems. You may also receive clinical experience in nursing care facilities, public health departments, home health agencies, and ambulatory clinics. Upon completion of your graduate-level education, you are prepared to sit for the certification examination, which results, when successful, in the CRNA designation.

While you are trained to deliver anesthesia and related care in a variety of general clinical settings where you function with a high degree of autonomy and professional respect, you may also choose to specialize in pediatric, obstetric, cardiovascular, plastic, dental, or neurosurgical anesthesia. Or you may provide clinical suport services outside of the operating room, in areas such as MRI units, cardiac catheterization labs, and lithotropsy units.

According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA):

If you are interested in pursuing advanced nursing knowledge or specialization; are caring, sympathetic, responsible, and detail oriented; able to direct or supervise others; can correctly assess patients' conditions and determine when consultation is required; able to work as a member of the healthcare team; possess the emotional stability to cope with human suffering, emergencies, and other stresses, a career as a nurse anesthetist may be just right for you.

Sources: American Association of Nurse Anesthetists; US Bureau of Labor Occupational Outlook Quarterly;