Do you have what it takes to become a nurse anesthetist?

After years of schooling and hands-on experience, nurse anesthetists are well equipped not only to administer anesthesia to patients going under the knife, but also to respond to whatever emergency situation that might come up.

We spoke with Lynn Reede, senior director of professional practice at the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists to find out more about the profession.


What does a nurse anesthetist do?

Nurse anesthetists are responsible for administering anesthesia to patients undergoing surgery or other medical treatments — ranging anywhere from appendectomies to complex heart surgeries. Of course, that doesn’t mean they simply put them to sleep and then move on to the next patient. “Nurse anesthetists stay with their patients throughout the entire procedure, monitoring vital signs, adjusting anesthetic levels, and waking them after surgery,” explains Reede.


What schooling do you need?

After completing a bachelors of science in nursing and obtaining a registered nurse license, prospective nurse anesthetists embark on the next stage: getting hands-on experience in a critical care setting. This typically involves working in coronary care unit, an emergency room or an intensive care unit, to “ensure that they’re well prepared to respond appropriately in any emergency,” says Reede.  

Next comes a certified registered nurse anesthetists program, which takes two to three years to complete. In general, she explains, “nurse anesthetists get seven to eight and half years of education, training and work experience before entering the workforce.”


What’s the typical salary?

The median annual salary for nurse anesthetists was $164,030 in May 2016, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics. The best-paid 10 percent in the profession made $189,880, while the lowest-paid 10 percent made $107,960.


Finding employment

“Nurse anesthetists are in demand and have many opportunities for general or specialty practice,” says Reede. And their job outlook will only get better in the coming years. The bureau of labor statistics expects the profession to grow 19 percent by the year 2024, during which an estimated 7,400 new jobs will open up.


The pros and cons

Aside from the long hours — surgical procedures take time — there aren’t many downsides to working as a nurse anesthetist, says Reede.

“People choose this profession because it gives them the ability to provide one-on-one care and help patients through their most difficult and vulnerable times,” she explains. Nurse anesthetists also get to work with the latest technology and pharmaceuticals, are highly respected, and receive a hefty paycheck for their hard work.​


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