Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA's) are the oldest nurse specialty group in America. One of the first was Catherine S. Lawrence, who provided anesthesia during the American Civil War. Sister Mary Bernard was the first nurse known to have specialized in anesthesia. The first school of nurse anesthesia was established in Portland, Oregon at St. Vincent Hospital in 1909. Popularity for this specialty group led to 19 more schools opening across the country over the next 10 years. By 1976 a bachelor's degree program for anesthesia was developed, and the master's degree program quickly followed in 1981. Today a nurse anesthetist first must be licensed registered nurse, at least one year of nursing experience in an acute care setting, and approval from the Council of Accreditation (COA) to enter a program of anesthesia education for a period between 24 and 36 months.
What Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?
In addition to their responsibilities with the patients, CRNA's also perform a variety of functions outside of the operating room. Many have collaborated anesthesia research, and later presented this research at national and international meetings. They have also published multiple books and articles on the subject of anesthesia.
Nurse Anesthetists Salary
According to salary.com, CRNA's in the United States earn a median salary of $155,600. Chief Nurse Anesthetists earn slightly more, with a median salary of $174,825. Payscale.com listed the average salary of a CRNA between $101,261 and 154,350. The profession of Nurse Anesthetist also make CNNMoney.com's list of "50 Best Jobs in America" in 2009, coming in at #15. This profession also got high "Quality of Life" marks in all areas except for "Low Stress".
In addition to a generous salary, CRNA's also enjoy a variety of different benefits. For example, the Cleveland Clinic offers paid malpractice insurance, tuition assistance, and teaching opportunities. CRNA's in the United States Army also qualify for special pay of up to $45,000. In many cases, Nurse Anesthetists also have more flexible schedules than standard RN's.
Is the Demand for Nurse Anesthetists Growing?
YES!! Because of an aging Baby Boom generation, the demand for Nurse Anesthetists is growing and is forecasted to continue to grow in the foreseeable future. In fact, some report that the demand for CRNA's is outpacing the demand for anesthesiologists.
How can I pay for nursing school?
In 1915 one of the first anesthesia programs in Cleveland, OH had a tuition fee of only $50 and a training period of six months. Today training can take several years, going through the process of becoming an RN and then additional study in the field of anesthesia. Naturally, tuition is much more expensive, however there are ways to follow your dreams without going into debt. There are many grants and scholarships available for those who are looking at going into this profession. Another strategy is to start out as a CNA and then work and study to become an RN. Some employers will pay for part or all of your tuition so you can work and go to school at the same time. In most cases employers have academic standards that must be met to receive reimbursement, typically a "C" or better or a "Pass" for a pass/fail class.
Are there any drawbacks to being a Nurse Anesthetist?
Nurse Anesthetists are often on call, and therefore can sometimes have erratic hours. This can sometimes take a toll on your personal life. Also, as with any medial profession, there is potential exposure to health hazards, and a typically high-stress environment. Yet in spite of this, Nurse Anesthetists gave an "A" for Job Satisfaction on CNNMoney's "Best Jobs" poll. Clearly, most believe that the benefits outweigh the disadvantages.