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.”

Corrinne Sherman is an acute care nurse practitioner and CRNA with CHAG Anesthesia, PC, a private anesthesia group in Syracuse. She had worked as a nurse since 2000 and the anesthesiologist where she worked at the time suggested she might enjoy working as a CRNA. Sherman said she had been feeling bored with her job and wanted a change. She received letters of recommendation from her boss and was accepted into a CRNA program.

In 2007, Sherman completed her program and moved back to Syracuse.

“I enjoy it,” Sherman said. “It’s very rewarding. It’s still involved nursing and I have contact with patients like I did in the ICU.”

While some opportunities for nurses to advance removes them from personal interaction with patients, such as educational or managerial roles, CRNAs interact with patients every day.

Sherman thinks that nurses interested in coming a CRNA should have solid organization skills, a strong work ethic, a good background in nursing in general, experience in multiple nursing situations, and leadership skills.

“If something goes wrong, it’s our responsibility to look after the patient’s vitals and we have to get people to listen and follow directions,” Sherman said. “It’s like being the leader of a team. The surgeon relies on you to take over watching over the patient so they can focus on the surgery.”

Sherman enjoys the variety of patients she sees as she works at hospitals and ambulatory centers, since her group contracts to various surgical facilities.

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