If you are thinking about becoming a nurse or are already a nurse but looking to specialize in a particular subfield of nursing, you may want to consider the benefits of being a nurse anesthetist. You may already know that this is one of the highest paid nursing specialties in the United States. Even at the low end of the range, the nurse anesthetist salary consistently breaks six figures. This means that you can easily earn over $100,000 yearly after meeting the necessary education and certification requirements.
What Nurse Anesthetists Do
Like all nurses, the nurse anesthetists primary job is patient welfare. They must take and monitor vital signs and oversee recovery, especially after the patient has been given anesthesia. However, they can also administer local and general anesthesia and assist the doctors who use anesthesia, such as surgeons, physicians, dentists, and anesthesiologist. Another important function of a nurse anesthetist is to administer nerve blocks and spinal epidurals. Finally, they can be responsible for patient pain management. All of these skills require further education and hands-on experience. This is why it can take some people seven or more years of post-graduate work and on-the-job training to become a nurse anesthetist.
Where Does a Nurse Anesthetist Work?
You can find nurse anesthetists in a variety of different medical settings in all areas across the country:
- Outpatient care centers
- Physician offices
- Hospitals – general, surgical, psychiatric, substance abuse
- Other medical offices, such as dentists
- Universities, colleges, and professional schools
- Federal government
How To Become a Nurse Anesthetist
While the salaries for nurse anesthetists are high, the road to becoming one is long and filled with lots of practical and classroom education. First, you must earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing, or BSN. This traditionally takes four years of full-time schooling. It may take you longer if you can’t go full time. After earning the BSN, you must then pass the nursing exam to become a registered nurse or RN. The path then requires some hands-on training in emergency rooms, intensive care units, or any acute care setting for at least a year.
Some programs may require two or more years of additional experience. Afterward, you can apply to an accredited nurse anesthetist program if you want to enjoy the nurse anesthetist salary. Keep in mind though that these programs are highly sought after and very competitive. You will want to review the admission requirements carefully. You may even want to speak with an admission representative or a nurse anesthetist for tips on how to make your application stand out. Once you are accepted, the program can take two to three years to complete. You will exit the program having earned at least a master’s degree; some programs offer doctoral degrees.
Programs for nurse anesthetists can be found all over the United States, primarily in larger city areas. This makes programs convenient for many to attend. There are even some online programs. As with any program, you should make sure to do research and ensure that the program is regionally or nationally accredited by one of the three national accreditation councils:
- Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs
- Accreditation Commission on Education in Nursing
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
In the Classroom
Classroom work includes advanced studies in pain management; geriatric and obstetric anesthesia; and anesthesia pharmacology, biology, and pathophysiology. You will get lots of clinical practice at the university or community hospitals associated with the programs.
Since this is graduate-level work, the cost of the programs can run $1,000 or more per credit. Keep in mind that you will need approximately 64 to 100 credits to complete the program. The variance will depend on the extent of the program and whether you will finish the master’s degree or a doctorate. Financial aid may be available by the school, government, or private grants or loans.
Once you complete all of your training, you can then sit for the examination to accredit you as a National Board-Certified Nurse Anesthetist through the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists or the NBCRNA. This is a three-hour exam and is set up much like the nursing exam where you will receive anywhere from 100 to 170 questions. The number of items that you must complete depends on how you answer the first set of problems. Once you are certified and find employment, you must maintain your certification through additional classwork and seminars totaling 40 hours of continuing education. You will have to recertify every two years.
Nurse Anesthetist Salary Information Across the Country
The nurse anesthetist salary information on this list is provided by the U. S. Department of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics. Not all states are represented on this list, but it will give you a good idea of what people in the field make across the country. It does provide the nurse anesthetist salary information for some of the top earners and the states where the highest concentration of nurse anesthetists are employed.
The overall mean hourly wage or nurse anesthetist salary is $81.47, and the mean annual nurse anesthetist salary is $169,450. The mean is another word for average, this includes the highest and the lowest paid. If we look closer at the data, the lowest reported hourly wage is $53.13 with a similar yearly nurse anesthetist salary of $110,520. The highest recorded hourly nurse anesthetist salary is $93.75 with a comparable annual nurse anesthetist salary of $194,990.
Pennsylvania– $78.35 per hour and $162,980 per year
Alabama – $80.26 per hour and $166,950 per year
North Carolina – $82.23 per hour and $171,040 per year
Tennessee– $70.76 per hour and $147,180 per year
Texas – $73.32 per hour and $152,510 per year
West Virginia – $89.84 per hour and $186,870 per year
Iowa – $95.26 per hour and $198,140 per year
Minnesota – $86.75 per hour and $180,430 per year
Ohio – $76.44 per hour and $159,000 per year
South Dakota – $88.85 per hour and $184,810 per year
California – $104.44 per hour and $217,230 per year
Montana – $121.38 per hour and $252,460 per year
Oregon – $99.75 per hour and $207,480 per year
Wyoming – $120.49 per hour and $250,610 per year
Choosing a Career
Many people look at the nurse anesthetist salary and instantly think that this is the career for them. In fact, it is a highly desirable nurse anesthetist salary and one of the highest in the nursing profession. However, nursing, in general, may not be for everyone. You will really need to consider several important aspects of the career before jumping into it.
It takes many years and a lot of money in tuition to become a nurse. You will need an undergraduate degree and then a graduate degree in order to reach this level. Can you dedicate the time and financial resources to such a career? Can you memorize medical terminology and pass timed exams in comfort? Many people struggle to learn these concepts, but some struggle more than others, especially if they have undiagnosed learning disabilities. You need to know your ability to tackle academic subjects to get through nursing school. You may find yourself spending many long and arduous hours studying and performing clinical to pass an exam.
What it Takes to be One
You have to love dealing with people, both sick and healthy when you are a nurse. Some patients may be vomiting or have communicable diseases and other unpleasant health problems. Will you be able to help them all without feeling ill or wanting to run out of the room?
While you will be working primarily in hospitals or doctor offices, many have non-standard hours. For instance, hospitals never close and must have staff around the clock. You may wind up working evening, weekends, and holidays. Will you be able to give up your own family time so others can have theirs?
What to Expect
Nursing is a very physically demanding career. First, you are on your feet all day long attending to patients. Second, you may have to help move patients who cannot move on their own. Next, some patients can be belligerent and physically attack nurses just for trying to help them. Are you physically prepared to deal with the demands of the job?
You will have to put in many long hours on the nursing floor before you may see any chance of advancement. For instance, you may need at least two years of acute care experience before considering applying to certain nurse anesthetist positions. Do you have the mental resources to put in the time to get to the next level?
Many people go into nursing thinking that one day they may want to specialize and become a nurse anesthetist. However, the path can take at least seven years after becoming earning a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing and becoming a Registered Nurse. Some people find other specialties that they like instead that may be a better fit for their schedule, interests, and personality. The cost of the program may be another deterrent to some since it can cost over $65,000 to complete. Statistics indicate that the nurse anesthetist salary is one of the highest in the field, which makes it a very competitive program to enter. Despite the competition, you may still want to work hard to get into the programs because many who work in the field report high rates of satisfaction with their careers.