Nurse Anesthetist SalaryCareer as a Nurse Anesthetist

There are currently 34,180 Nurse Anesthetists – also known as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists – working in the United States.  The average salary of a Nurse Anesthetist is $148,160. 

However, this average is not as dismal as it first appears.  There are more entry-level CRNAs in the workforce over this last two years than previously.  Entry-level wages average between $75,000 and $105,810.  Much of the wage disparity involves the years of practice as a Registered Nurse in a critical care field and hospital environment where such practice was hands-on rather than book work. 

Technically, the nurse anesthetist is supposed to assist an Anesthesiologist by administering the anesthetic, monitor the progress of the patient during surgery adjusting the levels of anesthesia and oxygen and overseeing the post-surgical progress of the patient.  Just as a side note, this is exactly the same thing that the Anesthesiologist does according to his/her job description except for the “assist” part. 

In actual practice, the CRNA performs all the services of a physician licensed to practice Anesthesiology.  This, in part, explains why the average Nurse Anesthetistsalaryis the highest of any nurse specialty.

Services of the nurse anesthetist are performed in a variety of settings, which has a greater influence on the salary than the locale or demand in a given area.  These settings include surgeon’s offices, other physician’s offices, federal government facilities, outpatient care facilities, and dental offices.  Dentists are employing CRNAs more than ever before to ensure that patients are attended to by someone trained in the field. 

The first requirement to becoming a Nurse Anesthetist is that you are a Registered Nurse preferably with a bachelor’s degree in Nursing.  However, if you have an Associate Degree in Nursing and have been practicing in a hospital setting in a critical care unit for more than five years, you will still qualify.   Some of the older Licensed Practical Nurses with more than 20 years of patient care in ER, Critical Care, Surgical Care, and ICU have become accepted to CRNA courses for certification due to their extensive experience. 

While the career does require technical and specialized skills that are gained through education and experience in patient care, there are additional personal skills that are sought after by employers.  Those who are gifted in communicating verbally and in written form with coworkers and patients are most desirable.  Being able to work individually without supervision as well as cooperatively with a team is essential for a good work environment. 

The rewards of a career as a CRNA include more than just an enormous raise in pay.  Job satisfaction is rated as one of the highest in any of the nursing fields with job security coming in second.  However, this is a high-stress occupation and should be considered for those who do not find stressful situations an enjoyable challenge. 

The future growth of jobs in this field is at an all-time high.  While most people think of CRNA as a new nursing subset, it is actually one of the oldest fields around.  Yet, there was a period from approximately 1930 to 1980 when CRNAs were ignored and dismissed as viable members of the medical team.  

Currently there is a massive shortage of nurse anesthetists and Anesthesiologists.  As a result, qualified individuals who have more than ten years of patient care experience in a hospital setting, with additional experience in an operating room and recovery room setting can become Temporary Nurse Anesthetists while they proceed to take the certification classes.  

If you choose to take this route, research the various locations, arenas and settings that are seeking temporary Nurse Anesthetists first.  Just because you would be classified as “temporary” does not mean that you should accept lower wages than those who are already certified as long as you are in the process of gaining your certification. Even temporary CRNAs are earning on average the entry-level wage base for their field.  By making the transition from RN to CRNA in this manner, you will have the advantage of earning the necessary funds to pay for your additional education.

Nurse Anesthetist Average Salary

The current average salary for a Nurse Anesthetistis $148,160.  This is an inadequate reflection of the gender wage closure that has occurred in the last two years.  Female CRNAs now average $160,000 a year and Males average $171,000 but the decrease in male CRNA salaries has dropped the median average down because those at the bottom 10% or entry-level are being offered less during the first two years of practice than previously. 

Nurse Anesthetist Salary Factors and Influences

There are many factors that influence the salary for a Nurse Anesthetist. When choosing a career specialty as a Registered Nurse, these factors should be considered along with the salary enticements.  Amongthe factors to be taken seriously are location, general economy, insurance payment caps and the general attitude of doctors toward the ability of CRNAs.

Before we discuss the details of the influencing factors, let’s review the range of salaries that nurse anesthetists are actually receiving.  As of March 29, 2013 – the latest update by the GAO – the lowest 10% of CRNAs are paid on average $105,810.  This means that some are paid as little as $75,000 while others are getting as much as $125,000.  This is an extremely important factor to consider before you make the commitment to this career.  The top 10% of CRNAs average $176,060.  But, we know for a fact that five states pay as much as $215,000 for entry-level nurse anesthetists. 

Factors such as metropolitan vs. non-metropolitan areas are evening out now and rural areas are paying as much or more for nurse anesthetists than some major cities.  The demand for nurse anesthetists parallels the demand for Physician’s Assistants and the influencing elements appear to be similar. 

Fewer doctors are graduating and entering the field of anesthesiology.  Aging physicians in the specialty who are from the baby boom era are getting ready to retire. The health care act that will be completely in effect by January 2014 does not provide for the education for additional doctors.  Therefore, the need to expand the training of registered nurses who have been practicing as care givers for more than one to three years is much cheaper and faster than training a physician to do the same job.  This lowers health care costs for hospitals, patients and insurance providers.  At the same time, it increases the average salary of a registered nurse several times over. 

The highest paying top-five metropolitan areas include:

Hickory, North Carolina: Average Salary: $202,660

Columbia, South Carolina: Average Salary: $196,390

Seattle, Washington: Average Salary: $188,270

Hartford, Connecticut: Average Salary: $185,880

Charleston, West Virginia: Average Salary: $183,620

By comparison, the highest paying top-five non-metropolitan areas include:

West Central Illinois: Average Salary: $218,530

Rural North Carolina: Average Salary: $192,720

Rural Pennsylvania: Average Salary: $190,810

Hartford, Connecticut: Average Salary: $185,880

Southern West Virginia: Average Salary: $181,380

The difference between rural non-metropolitan and metropolitan areas is minimal for the salary expectations of nurse anesthetists.

Nurse Anesthetist Salary Compared To Related Fields

When you compare the salary of a Nurse Anesthetistto other subsets of the nursing industry, the only specialized field that pays almost as well is Physician Assistant – which is not classified as a nursing subset at all.

Average Nurse Anesthetist Salary: $148,160

Average Registered Nurse Salary: $65,690

Average Nurse Researcher Salary: $95,000

Average Psychiatric Nurse Practitioner Salary: $95,000

Average Physician Assistant Salary: $134,000

As is evident, the Nurse Anesthetist is the best paying specialty that does not require additional college education even though it does require further education and certification.   The nurse anesthetist is certified as a nurse, while the Physician’s Assistant is licensed by the AMA.  After several years of practice, both of these divisions in health care see large jumps in their salary. 

Nurse Anesthetist Salary by State

Below are the states with the highest employment of Nurse Anesthetists and the average salaries they receive.

Nurse Anesthetistsalary in Texas: $166,380

Nurse Anesthetist salary in North Carolina: $162,470

Nurse Anesthetist salary in Pennsylvania: $172,810

Nurse Anesthetistsalary in Tennessee: $141,320

Nurse Anesthetist salary in Virginia: $141,680

Below are the five states with the highest concentration of nurse anesthetists with their average salaries. 

Tennessee: Average Salary: $141,320

Louisiana: Average Salary: $141,890

South Dakota: Average Salary: $162,980

North Dakota: Average Salary: $168,620

Kansas: Average Salary: $135,090

Keep in mind that highest concentration does not equate with the average salary necessarily.  The first factor that all of these states have in common is that they have a high Native American population and a lower income average than other states in the nation.  In order to keep state funded medical care costs lower, nurse anesthetists are replacing doctor anesthetists. 

Below are the five states offering the highest pay for CRNAs. 

Wyoming: Average Salary: $215,720

Nevada: Average Salary: $208,700

District of Columbia: Average Salary: $185,800

Connecticut: Average Salary: $181,650

Oregon: Average Salary: $176,470

What each of these states have in common is that the need for CRNAs is higher because of the retirement of aging surgeons, the strength of the state economy and the current lack of health care workers in rural areas. 

Nurse AnesthetistTypes of Salaries

Because CRNAs are a subset of Registered Nursing, there are no specialists as such within this field except as is designated by facility that provides the employment. The Nurse Anesthetist average salaryfora group of surgeons averages $176,740 while the same nurse anesthetist who works for the Federal government averages $139,280. 

Nurse Anesthetist – Physicians Offices:$149,660

Nurse Anesthetist – Medical/Surgical Hospital Services: $163,220

Nurse Anesthetist – Surgeon Offices:$176,740

Nurse Anesthetist – Outpatient Care Facilities: $163,290

Nurse Anesthetist – Federal Government OES branches: $139,280

The other factor that predominantly influences salary for nurse practitioners is the industry in which they are employed.  For example, CRNAs employed by Dentists earn an average of $189,330, which exceeds even those working for Surgeons.  Yet, those working in other specialties such as gerontology and pediatrics average only $162,330.  

History of Nurse Anesthetist

Many people don’t realize that the first medical anesthetists in the U.S. were women.  During the U.S. Civil War, nurses who were trained on the field were administering whatever anesthesiology that was available.  In 1877, the doctors at St. Vincent Hospital in Pennsylvania declared that Sister Mary Bernard as the first “official” nurse anesthetist.  However, it is only fair to state that there was more than 50 documented nurse anesthetists nationwide working at the Catholic hospitals. 

Whether a matter of pride of male ego, nurses were not considered to be capable of taking on the role of anesthetist once the use of ether diminished and the use of anesthetic blocks, ventilators and paralysis techniques made its way into the operating room.  Doctors had no difficulty learning the necessary skills, but nurses were obviously devoid the mandatory capability to learn the same thing.  This attitude continues in many areas of the country even today.   This is one of the factors why nurse anesthetists have not been utilized in certain states and areas previously. 

Nurse Anesthetist Salary Outlook – Conclusion

As younger surgeons who have studied and practiced with females as nurses, physician assistants, nurse anesthetists and doctors enter medicine, the fear that stifled CRNA growth in the field is disappearing rapidly.  As Americans live longer, more cures are found for diseases that a decade ago were death sentences and surgeons skills are becoming better, the need for nurse anesthetists is continuously growing.  The Nurse Anesthetistsalary by stateindicates that even those states where this profession has been slow to be utilized the demand for more CRNAs has exploded.  

Of all the health care support careers, the Nurse Anesthetist salary is higher than any other.  Since most nurses in the U.S. are now female, this is an opportunity to close the gap in gender wage disparagement and an opening for women who have their RN degree to expand their professional stature. 

Consider making the transition to CRNA by first becoming a Temporary Nurse Anesthetist as soon as you enroll in your first certification class.  This field is expected to grow faster than any other field of health care – excepting Physician’s Assistant – over the next ten years.