What Are CRNAs (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists)?

What Are CRNAs (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists)

Have you heard of the terms ‘nurse anesthetist’ or ‘CRNA’ before? 

Are you wondering who they are and what they do?

Perhaps you’re even interested in becoming one! 

Well, whether you just have a general curiosity or are considering becoming one, we’ll give you everything you need to know about nurse anesthetists! 

We’ll answer questions, such as:

  • What Are CRNAs (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists)?

  • What Do CRNAs Do?

  • Where Do CRNAs Work?

  • What Qualities Should CRNAs Have?

  • What is the Difference Between a Nurse Anesthetist and an Anesthesiologist? 

  • Do CRNAs Have Good and Viable Careers?

  • How Do I Become a CRNA?

  • How Long Does It Take to Become a CRNA? 

  • Which Organization Offers CRNA Certification? 

  • How Much Do RNs Earn?

There’s so much to discover together. So, if you’re ready, let’s dive right in! 

What Are CRNAs (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists)?

CRNA stands for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. 

CRNAs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who provide anesthesia-related care to patients before, during, and after surgeries or labor and delivery. 

They communicate and explain the procedure to the patients before the surgery, administer the anesthesia and monitor the patient throughout the surgery, and ensure the patients recover well afterward. 

They are crucial members of the surgical team and work closely with surgeons, dentists, and podiatrists. 

CRNAs are well-respected and can practice with a high degree of autonomy. 

What Do CRNAs Do?

CRNAs are involved in all stages of surgery or labor and delivery.

Pre-operation, their tasks include:

  • doing a full patient work-up to assess a patient’s response to anesthesia

  • identifying possible risks, such as allergies and other health conditions 

  • educating patients about what type of anesthesia they plan to use and possible risks or side-effects 

During operation, their tasks include:

  • providing precise doses of anesthesia

  • monitoring the patient’s vital signs (such as heart rate, body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing) throughout the procedure

  • administering more anesthetic if necessary

Post-operation, their tasks include:

  • providing pain management medications

  • providing trauma stabilization and critical care interventions 

Where Do CRNAs Work?

CRNAs can work in a variety of settings. 

  • Physician’s offices -  CRNAs often act as the primary administrators of anesthetics in smaller medical offices or doctor’s offices. 

  • Hospitals - They can be found in the operating rooms (ORs), postanesthesia recovery rooms (PACU), and emergency rooms (ERs) of hospitals. They usually work with anesthesiologists in this setting. 

  • Dental centers and offices of other health practitioners - CRNAs can work with other health practitioners who provide surgical services, such as dentists. They also work with plastic surgeons and ophthalmologists.

  • Outpatient care centers - Aside from doctor’s offices and offices of other health practitioners, CRNAs can also work in outpatient care centers that offer same-day surgical services. 

  • Ambulatory or mobile surgical centers - These are healthcare facilities that may provide same-day surgical care. 

  • Labor and delivery units - CRNAs are needed to minimize the pain of mothers in childbirth. They provide pain relief that is safe both for the mother and the child. 

  • U.S. Military - CRNAs are the main providers of anesthesia to the people who serve in the U.S. armed forces.

  • Government agencies - CRNAs may hold positions in government agencies, such as in-state boards of nursing, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, and professional testing organizations.

  • Research and study centers - CRNAs may be involved in research work. 

  • Colleges, universities, and professional schools - CRNAs may also work as professors who train aspiring RNs or those pursuing advanced practice. 

According to the BLS, these are the industries with the highest levels of employment of nurse anesthetists. 



Percent of industry employment

Hourly mean wage

Hourly mean wage

Offices of Physicians



$ 93.39

$ 194,240

General Medical and Surgical Hospitals



$ 102.09

$ 212,340

Offices of other Health Practitioners



$ 86.17

$ 179,220

Outpatient Care Centers



$ 122.20

$ 254,180

College, Universities and Professional Schools


$ 96.32
$ 200,340

What Qualities Should CRNAs Have?

The task of CRNAs is not easy. There are certain qualities they should have, therefore, to be effective in their line of work. 

They should be:

  • Calm and quick in emergencies - There is a broad range of scenarios that a CRNA must face, including critical situations and emergencies. They must be able to react and make decisions quickly.

  • Independent - CRNAs often work alone. They may even work without the supervision of a physician in some states. They must therefore be comfortable thinking and making decisions independently and provide the best care for their patients wherever they are. 

  • Attentive to details - CRNAs must pay careful attention to details about the patient since the slightest variance in administering anesthesia and monitoring the patient’s response could impact the patient significantly.

  • Structured - CRNAs have a lot to keep in mind for each patient. They should be structured and organized. 

  • Flexible - CRNAs may have to work with many different surgical cases for many different kinds of patients in one day. They need to be flexible and easily adaptable to whatever the day brings, especially during emergency surgical procedures. 

  • Empathetic - CRNAs help patients minimize and manage pain. They should therefore be able to empathize with their patients and be sensitive to cues of pain or discomfort. 

  • A life-long learner - To become a CRNA, RNs need to take a doctorate and a national certification examination. They also need to keep their licenses active through continuing education and other renewal requirements. They must have a love for learning and a continuous passion to improve. 

What is the Difference Between a Nurse Anesthetist and an Anesthesiologist? 

CRNAs (nurse anesthetists) provide the same type of services for the same types of patients in the same types of facilities that anesthesiologists do. 

The difference is mainly in their educational background. 

CRNAs are registered nurses who specialize and advance their practice by taking a doctoral degree in anesthetics and passing a national certification exam. 

Anesthesiologists are Doctors of Medicine (MDs) specializing in anesthetics. 

In a setting where there are both CRNAs and anesthesiologists, the anesthesiologists provide oversight to the CRNAs.

Do CRNAs Have Good and Viable Careers?

Definitely! The BLS projects a 12% growth in the employment of CRNAs from 2021-2031. 

This growth is largely due to the increasing demand for healthcare services, both preventive healthcare and care for the aging population. 

It has also been seen that CRNAs can provide about the same level of care and service as anesthesiologists. More and more healthcare facilities are looking to CRNAs as a source of primary healthcare. In fact, CRNAs are the primary anesthesia providers in rural hospitals and health centers. 

Some states are also changing their laws regarding CRNAs and are allowing CRNAs to provide more services.

These all contribute to the growing employment and high respect for CRNAs. 

The U.S. News & World Report ranks nurse anesthetists as #8 in Best Health Care Jobs in 2022. They are also the highest-paid nurses of 2022!

How Do I Become a CRNA?

Becoming a CRNA can take many years and involves several steps. But as we already saw, it can be a very rewarding career.

Here are the five steps to becoming a CRNA: 

  1. Become a Registered Nurse (RN) and Gain Experience

You first need to become a registered nurse and gain at least 1-2 years of relevant experience before you can proceed to become a nurse anesthetist. A CRNA is already an advanced practice registered nurse. 

You can read more about how to become an RN in this article

  1. Complete a Doctoral Degree in Nurse Anesthetics 

After becoming an RN, you can enroll in a doctoral degree in nurse anesthetics. 

Previously, RNs could take MSN degrees, but a new regulation has come out that by 2025, all aspiring CRNAs should have graduated with a doctorate. 

It takes about 3 years to complete a doctorate, although this will depend on your pace and your school’s curriculum. 

  1. Take the National Certification Exam (CNE) 

After graduating with your doctorate, you can apply for the national exam offered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetics (NBCRNA).

There is only one certifying body for all CRNAs in the country. 

  1. Apply for Your CRNA License

Once you pass the national exam and get your national certification, you can apply for 

your CRNA license from your state’s nursing body. 

You will also be asked to submit other requirements. 

  1. Keep Your RN and CRNA Licenses Active 

You have to remember that you need to keep your RN and CRNA licenses active so that 

you can continue practicing. Different states have different renewal requirements.

You can read more about how to become an CRNA in this article

How Long Does It Take to Become a CRNA? 

This varies largely, depending on a lot of factors. But an approximate time frame would be about 7-10 years. 

This includes the time it takes to:

  • become an RN - about 4 years

  • take the NCLEX-RN - soon after graduation

  • gain experience - 1-2 years

  • finish a doctorate - 2-3 years 

  • take the national exam - soon after graduation

Which Organization Offers CRNA Certification? 

Unlike other APRNs (nurse practitioners and nurse specialists), there is only one national certifying body for all CRNAs. This is the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nursing Anesthetists (NBCRNA).

The NBCRNA outlines eligibility, registration processes, exam details, and renewal procedures in its Examination Candidate Handbook.

How Much Do RNs Earn?

CRNAs are the highest-paid nurses. They earn a mean annual wage of $202, 470, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). 

The exact amount CRNAs are paid may be more or less than this depending on where they live and what exactly their work entails. 

You can see this table on the BLS website



Mean hourly wage

Mean annual wage

Wage RSE









50% (Median)



Hourly Wage






Annual wage






Top-Paying States

The top-paying states for CRNAs are Alaska, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, and West Virginia. 



Employment per thousnad jobs

Location quotient

Hourly mean wage

Annual mean wage













New Jersey




West Virginia






Top-Paying Industries

The top-paying industries for CRNAs are outpatient care centers, specialty hospitals, general and surgical hospitals, the academe, and offices of physicians. 



Percent of industry employment

Hourly mean wage

Hourly mean wage

Outpatient Care Centers





Speciality (except Psychiatric and Substance Abuse Hospitals)





General Medical and Surgical Hospitals





Colleges, Universities and Professional Schools





Offices of Physicians



In Summary

We’ve seen the crucial role of CRNAs in healthcare. 

We’ve learned who they are, what they do, and the important part they play in surgical procedures. 

It’s no easy task to become a CRNA. You’ll need to go through many years of study (which never ends) and you’ll have a demanding job ahead of you. 

However, we’ve seen how meaningful and rewarding it can also be. 

We hope you found this article helpful, whether you’re just curious about this profession or if you’re seriously considering this career path.

If you have any more questions, leave us a comment!

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