Nurse anesthetists do much more than put people to sleep during operations. They administer anesthesia and other medications to relieve chronic pain and pain during childbirth and act as consultants prior to any procedure.
In order to practice, a nurse anesthetist must first earn a degree as a registered nurse from an accredited school and then gain experience in a clinical setting. If they decide to specialize in anesthesia, they can work with an anesthetist in order to gain skills and then earn a master’s degree from a certified nurse anesthetist program. In all states, they must pass a national certification exam in order to become licensed.
The road to becoming a nurse anesthetist is long but rewarding. A candidate must first earn a four year degree from a certified nursing program and pass a licensing examination. After becoming a registered nurse, he or she can then choose to specialize by working with an experienced anesthetist and then return to school to earn a master’s degree followed by a certification exam.
While a large part of a nursing education must be done in a clinical setting with actual patients, some core courses in science and math can be taken in a classroom or even online. Completing a large part of the general education requirements before enrolling in a university can save both time and money.
A nurse anesthetist is charged with keeping the patient stable and breathing during surgery or other medical procedure. Nurse anesthetists may administer medications intravenously, through a spinal tap or via inhalation. They monitor a patient’s response to the medication by checking temperature, heart rate and breathing until they have recovered and are in stable condition.
Nurse anesthetists meet with patients prior to the procedure to get a medical history as well as explain the anesthesia process and answer questions. Duties may include:
Nurse anesthetists may work in a hospital, a birthing center, a dental office or a plastic surgery center. They must be in good physical condition, as the hours can be long and they may remain on their feet for a large part of the day.
According to a survey by salary.com, the median income for a nurse anesthetist as of February 2009 was $144, 174. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, nursing jobs are expected to grow faster than average through 2016.