careertrend article image
kadmy/iStock/GettyImages

How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist

Growth Trends for Related Jobs

Advanced Practice Nursing: Nurse Anesthetists

Whether you are currently a registered nurse or just considering a career in health care, becoming a nurse anesthetist is one way to challenge yourself, earn a higher income and enjoy significant job opportunities. While this is a demanding job, it’s possible to develop a work schedule that can accommodate both a career and time with your family.

Job Description

Nurse anesthetists are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs): RNs who have completed additional, graduate-level training in an area of nursing specialization. Nurse midwives, nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists are different types of APRNs. As a nurse anesthetist, you’ll be responsible for administering and managing anesthesia for patients during diagnostic tests, surgery and other health care procedures.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, typical tasks include:

  • Evaluating patient records and interviewing patients about their health concerns and possible drug interactions
  • Administering general, regional or local anesthesia
  • Monitoring vital signs and the patient’s condition while anesthesia is being administered
  • Providing follow-up evaluation and care

Education Requirements

To become a nurse anesthetist, you will first need to become a registered nurse. After gaining job experience, you can then apply to a master’s program that trains APRNs. The prerequisites for admission into these programs vary by school: Some programs favor applicants who have already earned a bachelor of nursing science (BNS) degree, while others offer “bridge” programs that allow RNs who hold associate’s degrees or nursing school diplomas to complete necessary coursework and eventually earn their master’s degree.

State law establishes licensing requirements for nurse anesthetists. In most cases, in addition to holding your registered nurse license, you will need to take a national certification exam after you graduate from your master’s program. Eventually, you may wish to pursue a doctoral degree, which may enhance career opportunities. Nurses can earn a Ph.D. in nursing science or a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree.

As of May 2016, the median annual wage for a nurse anesthetist was $160,270. This means that 50 percent of nurse anesthetists earned more than that, and 50 percent earned less.

Industry

As a nurse anesthetist, you will likely be working in a hospital, outpatient treatment center or a doctor’s office. If you do work in a doctor’s office, you may be able to count on regular daytime work hours. If you opt for hospital work, you may be assigned to shifts that take place during evenings and weekends. You will have to evaluate your scheduling options and determine what is best for you and your family.

Years of Experience

Nurse anesthetists can expect to see an increase in their income as they get more work experience. The results of a survey by PayScale.com showed this correlation between years on the job and income:

  • 0–5 years: $133,000 
  • 5–10 years: $149,000 
  • 10–20 years: $157,000 
  • 20 years: $167,000 

Job Growth Trend

Job prospects for nurse anesthetists and other ARPNs should be excellent in the coming decades. According to the BLS, employment is expected to increase by 31 percent from 2016 to 2026. The reasons for the increase include greater demands for health care by an aging population as well as the need to keep down costs. The demand for nurse anesthetists may particularly be on the increase in rural and urban areas that have few health care providers.