Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) Week kicked off on January 19th and recognizes this specialized area of nursing. Sponsored by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), the week honors all these nurses do.

CRNAs recently received a public recognition of their career path when U.S. News and World Report published a Best 25 Jobs of 2020 and nurse anesthetist came in at the number 21 slot.

This nursing career has a lot going for it. It pays well, is constantly changing, and has lots of patient interaction. Nurse anesthetists often assist during surgery or may be in charge of the patient’s entire anesthesia plan and process. In fact, in some places, including rural areas or on the frontlines of the military, nurse anesthetists are often the main providers of anesthesia care to a patient.

Nurse anesthetists bring home a large paycheck. Although the U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics reports the amount will vary based on location, an average annual salary comes in at $167,950. Nurses interested in this path will complete a rigorous educational training. After your early nursing career, a typical path starts out in a critical care role, such as the intensive care unit, where they gain valuable training on evaluating and caring for patients with life-threatening injuring or illnesses. These nurses often have a masters’ degree, but more and more nurse anesthetists earn doctoral degrees. Beginning in 2022, all nurses entering accredited anesthesia programs will be required to earn a doctorate in the specialty.

This role requires initial certification and continued professional certification as the field changes rapidly. Lifelong learning in this specialty is essential for providing the best nursing care and ensuring the best patient safety.

Because of their role in providing essential care, nurse anesthetists routinely work in many areas, so finding a role that suits your career plans and your lifestyle is possible. Flexibility within this role isn’t as common as within other nursing roles, but because there is such a high demand for this role, the job variety is excellent.

According to the AANA, nurse anesthetists provide care to patients in varied locations and settings. From a chaotic battlefield to an organized dental office, nurse anesthetists are required to provide focused, deliberate, and incredibly precise anesthesia care. This role is also essential in pain management clinics and in surgical settings.

CRNAs also play an active and important role in the policies and regulations surrounding the patient care and the professional standards of this specialty. The CRNA Political Action Committee represents the interests of CRNAs and their patients in Washington and in the political establishment of each state.

Nursing leaders and those who take an active role in political decisions can offer a perspective that speaks to ensuring patients have equal access to the best care possible, no matter where they live or their income. These nurses are also proficient in speaking about veterans’ affairs, the opioid crisis, and patient safety.

CRNAs are a vital part of patient care. This week is acknowledgement of all they do.

Julia Quinn-Szcesuil
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