What is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)?

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    CRNA is a popular APN specialty. It is one of the more, if not the highest paid APN. However, you don't become a CRNA without earning it. Competition is fierce to get into school and once in school, studying for many hours per day is the norm.

    What is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)?

    Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) is an advanced practice nurse (APN) who has at least a masters degree and more frequently nowadays, a doctorate. As with other APNs, the CRNA has passed a certification test in order to use the title CRNA. The CRNA provides anesthesia to a wide variety of patients; from neonates to the geriatric population.


    A CRNA can expect a starting salary in the 6 figures. According to Payscale, the median salary for a CRNA is $130,000. With bonuses, you could expect a $150,000-$180,000 salary.

    Work Environment

    Most of the workday, CRNAs are in the operating room (OR) providing anesthesia to patients. There is a wide variety of OR settings. A CRNA can be in a level one trauma center with multiple ORs going many hours of the day. Or, a CRNA can be in a more rural environment where they might be the only anesthesia provider. Or, they could be active duty military deployed to some remote post providing emergent anesthesia in a war zone.

    Some other CRNAs work in research, pain management, office settings, and politics. With the advent of managed care on the horizon, opportunities are wide open for CRNAs to lobby on Capital Hill. Other CRNAs teach and mentor. There are many opportunities for CRNAs.

    Some of the steps involved in anesthesia:
    • Preoperative assessment which includes airway, need for consults/clearance from specialists, thoughts as to need for invasive monitoring
    • Sedation, induction, advanced airway placement
    • Maintenance of anesthesia to ensure patient safety
    • Emergence
    • Extubation
    • Postoperative visits to patients and families


    CRNA school admission is very competitive. For most schools, a registered nurse will need at least one year of Intensive Care Unit (ICU) experience, along with solid letters of recommendation and an interview. Other qualifications might include specialty certifications such as Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN). Each school has their own nuances that go into the selection of CRNA candidates.


    All nurses need to be compassionate and caring. CRNAs need additional qualities
    • Affinity for "hard sciences" such as bio-chemistry, physics, advanced pathophysiology and advanced cellular biology. (Each school has their own particular curriculum - this is just a general list).
    • Confidence in their own ability to provide safe and cost-effective anesthesia.
    • Ability to work with many different types of people, including attending physicians, nurses, techs and patients and families
    • Must be able to explain complex medical concepts to patients and families in a way that they understand

    Kathleen Piotrowski, DNP, CRNA, a nurse anesthesia specialty director and coordinator at the University of Arizona College of Nursing, describes what it's like to be a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)


    allnurses has a large Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist forum for pre-CRNAs and student CRNAs.

    The American Association of Nurse Anesthetist is the organization that represents CRNAs. This organization lobbies for CRNA specific legislation develops policy, practice standards and guidelines. A recent very interesting initiative is the "Have You Ever Served?" campaign. It recognizes that veterans face different healthcare challenges than the usual population. It is currently being rolled out in several states and it is expected to go nationwide by 2015.

    Have You Ever Served? is a new initiative that affects both healthcare providers and our patients.

    CCRN - Certification for Adult, Pediatric and Neonatal Critical Care Nurses is provided by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN). AACN provides education, practice standards, research grants and up to date information regarding critical care. They offer certification for adults, pediatrics and neonatal.

    Anesthesia Websites - allnurses.com thread with general resources for CRNAs
    Last edit by Joe V on Oct 26, '17
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  3. by   goodgrief
    stop spreading our secret
  4. by   Novo
    I wish we had these in Canada but the physician lobby is too strong. /sigh
  5. by   traumaRUs
    @goodgrief - lol. Come on, ya gotta share the wealth.