Certified Nurse Anesthetist: Average Salary: $169,330

The job growth for between 2014 and 2024 is projected at 31 percent, nearly twice that of registered nurses

By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant

NurseIf you’ve experienced in-patient surgery, you likely have received care from a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA).

Cheryl Spulecki, president of New York State Association of Nurse Anesthetists, works as a professor at University at Buffalo. The association represents more than 1,600 CRNAs statewide.

“The reason many are interested in the program is they think they’d find it a very satisfying career if they’ve worked in acute care, the emergency room or intensive care unit and they’d like to advance their career,” Spulecki said.

CRNAs administer all types of anesthesia in the operating room. Their care begins at the pre-operation assessment, throughout the surgery, preparing the patient for awakening to recovery and follow-up post-surgery to make sure they’re comfortable and their pain is managed safely.

In addition to more skills, the degree prepares CRNAs for leadership, administrative or education roles. Like other nursing specialties, CRNA candidates beginning in 2020 will need to complete a higher degree — a doctorate in this case — by 2025. That degree allows CRNAs to transition into education.

To apply to a CRNA program, candidates must have a bachelor of science in nursing or any appropriate bachelor’s degree, a license as a registered nurse, and a minimum of one year acute care nursing. Most master’s programs take 26 months to complete. The doctorate takes 36.

After completing the education required, candidates must pass national board examinations and then recertify every eight years. Four continuing education credits are also required every four years.

“We advise nurses or undergraduates to understand the prerequisites,” Spulecki said. “They should have critical care experience. They should enjoy the autonomy of working in that environment, working under supervision and medical direction of a physician and caring for patients with all types of anesthesia.”

For Jay Cody, a CRNA at UR Medicine’s Strong Memorial Hospital for 15 years, being able to learn more about the medical aspect of taking care of patients drew him to the program.

“I also liked being able to do procedures: epidurals, arterial lines and central lines,” he said. “I’m fascinated about anesthesia in particular because of the medications we give and it produces the effect so people are unaware of what the surgeon is doing. We can give a medication and they don’t feel the procedure itself.”

He said that career opportunities abound as the nursing shortage extends to CRNAs as well. CRNAS work in hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, free-standing clinics and OB-GYN offices.

He thinks that people who have a good attention to detail, clinical instincts, communication skills and assertiveness make good CRNAs.

“You have to be committed to it because it is a pretty long training process,” Cody said. “I think it’s not something you can enter into lightly. You have to make the decision that you’re going to do it. The rewards are fantastic. It’s an incredible job that I have. I get compensated quite well for it. It’s one of the best-paying nursing positions outside a management position.

“And the opportunities are just going to expand even more with the way health care is going right now.”

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average CRNA in New York makes an average annual salary of $169,330 as it shows in the check stub. The job growth between 2014 and 2024 is projected at 31 percent, nearly twice that of registered nurses.