Nurse anesthetists date back to the late 1800’s when this field became the first clinical nursing specialty to be recognized. At that time, anesthesia’s mortality and morbidity rates were high, and doctors became concerned that patients under anesthesia needed more constant attention that they were not able to provide during procedures so, the most likely candidate to take on this role was the nurse. Nurses are medical professionals, and not only stand by during surgical procedures, but have more flexibility to be able to provide patients with their undivided attention while the doctor performs his or her duties. Thus, the Nurse Anesthetist specialty was born.
Today, this clinical nursing specialty is alive and well, and nurse anesthetists are the highest paid nurses in the nation, often earning in excess of $150,000 a year, depending on experience, location, and employer. Like any other clinical specialty, education above and beyond the traditional nursing school is required, and must be obtained through an accredited college, university or online nursing school. In addition to a Bachelor’s degree in nursing, aspiring nurse anesthetists must work in an INU or SIC unit for a year to learn to work under pressure. Then, two to three years are spent earning a Master’s degree in Anesthesia and Nursing, as well as acquire a CRNA accreditation.
Once a nurse anesthetist receives the CRNA designation, these nurses will likely work in a hospital, although with in-office procedures in private practice offices – especially the rapidly expanding cosmetic surgery field – there are certainly job opportunities outside the traditional hospital setting, as well. Unfortunately, those positions may be harder to find as a result of many private practices lacking the funds to provide malpractice insurance for nurse anesthetists, which tends to be rather high due to a higher risk of adverse side effects in this specialty of nursing than in others. Most often, hospitals do have the funds to cover these costs, and need to have nurse anesthetists on staff, while in many private practices their presence is optional because a doctor can always perform procedures at the hospital and utilize the nurse anesthetists there.
Becoming a nurse anesthetist is most certainly more expensive and time-consuming than traditional nursing school, and is by far the most difficult and demanding clinical specialty in the field of nursing. But the rewards far outweigh the sacrifices made in achieving this degree: nurse anesthetists are always in high demand, and as mentioned above, they are the highest paid nurses in the nation.