Once you have completed the hard work of CRNA school and passed your CRNA certification exam, you are officially a certified registered nurse anesthetist. This means that you can begin your new career and start searching for and applying to CRNA jobs. CRNAs work in healthcare facilities around the nation and can find opportunities in very diverse locations. CRNAs are often able to find employment on a full-time, part-time, or Locum Tenens (temporary) basis.
CRNA Job Outlook
The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists reports that CRNA jobs are in demand and candidates can find many opportunities for practice throughout the United States. According to the AANA, anesthesia care is 50 times safer today than it was in the 1980s and there is no difference in the safety level of anesthesia provided by CRNAs and that provided by anesthesiologists. Because of the outstanding care provided by CRNAs, they are often seen as a cost-effective hire as opposed to an anesthesiologist. For these reasons and others, the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupation Outlook Handbook lists the expected job growth for Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, or Nurse Practitioners as 31% from 2012-2022. This predicted growth is much faster than average and is due in part to an increased demand for health care services for an aging population as well as an increased focus on preventative care. The employment outlook for CRNAs in the future appears to be bright.
CRNA and Anesthesiologists Employment
A frequently asked question among those looking to hire a CRNA is “Is a CRNA required to be supervised by an anesthesiologist?” The short answer to that question is “no.” The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists recently launched an educational campaign aimed at dispelling common myths that healthcare providers may have about hiring CRNAs. They state that “there are no federal laws rules or regulations that require CRNAs to be supervised by anesthesiologists.” This is a benefit for those seeking CRNA jobs because it means that hiring a CRNA may be the most cost-effective solution for medical facilities that need to provide anesthesia services.
A study published in the Journal of Nursing Economics in 2010 entitled “Cost-Effectiveness Analysis of Anesthesia Providers” came to very encouraging and positive findings regarding the differences between anesthesiologist-lead anesthesia care and CRNA-lead anesthesia care. The main purpose of the study was to look at the differences in cost to healthcare facilities between using an anesthesiologist and using a CRNA. The study showed that it costs less to train CRNA versus an anesthesiologist, that CRNAs can perform the same services as anesthesiologists, and that an independent CRNA is able to provide anesthesia service at the lowest economic cost. It also showed that there is no difference in the effectiveness and quality of care given by a CRNA versus that of an anesthesiologist. The study is very beneficial to the CRNA job outlook as it concludes that increasing the numbers of CRNAs and allowing them to practice independently “will be a key to containing costs while maintaining quality care.” CRNAs are quickly becoming the first choice as the anesthesia providers of the future.
Where do CRNAs practice?
CRNAs can provide every type of anesthesia to all types of patients for any surgery or procedure which requires pain management. They can perform this work in a wide variety of different healthcare settings.
Hospitals or Medical Centers
Many CRNAs work in a traditional hospital or medical center setting. As a CRNA in a typical hospital, CRNAs often work alongside or under the direction of an anesthesiologist or anesthesia department. They often work within anesthesiology departments and could be called upon to perform sedation, general anesthesia, local anesthesia, or pain management for any type of service that the hospital provides. They would likely work as part of a team but would provide individualized care to their patients. Working at a medical center or as part of an anesthesia team would likely give a CRNA a predictable work schedule and offer some consistency in their regular CRNA job duties.
Rural Hospitals and Clinics
CRNAs can also practice in less traditional hospital settings, such as in rural hospitals. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, CRNAs are the sole providers of anesthesia in over two-thirds of all rural hospitals in the United States. Through this work, they bring critical anesthesia services to over 70 million Americans who would otherwise not have access to them. This type of CRNA work differs from work in a traditional hospital in several ways. Rural CRNAs may not be needed on a full-time or regularly scheduled basis but could be called upon in the case of scheduled surgeries or emergencies. Rural CRNAs also usually work independently and are not under the direction of an anesthesia unit or anesthesiologist. Rural hospitals often do not have the need or financial ability to provide that type of full-time anesthesia service, so they rely on a CRNA to handle any and all anesthesia-related services. A rural CRNA may have a predictable schedule with the chance of being on-call, or their work hours could be completed on an as-needed or on-call basis.
A CRNA can also practice anesthesia care at locations other than hospitals including ambulatory surgery centers, obstetric clinics, dental offices, plastic surgeon offices, and podiatry offices. CRNA jobs in these types of settings often operate on an as-needed or part-time basis and are usually the only provider of anesthesia services at these particular locations. For instance, a CRNA might work as an independent contractor and provide anesthesia services at a dental office several days per week and at an obstetric clinic on an on-call basis. These types of positions offer scheduling flexibility and the ability to work independently, but may not offer enough income predictability for every CRNA.
Active Duty Military Locations
One additional workplace for CRNAs is as active duty members of the military. Military CRNAs are RNs who went through military CRNA schooling, paid for by the military, with the stated intention of active duty military service after the completion of their degree and certification. The goal of the military CRNA program is to meet the growing need for healthcare professionals within the ranks of the US military. While this is a less common option for CRNA schooling, the military CRNA program is another example of the wide variety of job opportunities available for CRNAs.
CRNA Job Satisfaction
A job as a CRNA can be very rewarding. CRNAs have the opportunity to make a difference in the lives of their patients on a daily basis. A CRNA works alongside their patient from initial pre-surgery consultation to post-operative recovery. They work with patients who are going through surgical or diagnostic procedures that are oftentimes stressful and overwhelming. During that time a CRNA is not only a provider of clinical anesthesia care but is also a source of comfort. By providing excellent care and bedside manner, CRNAs instill confidence in the safety and efficacy of their work and help their patients not only physically, but psychologically and emotionally as well.
CRNAs report a general feeling of professional comradery amongst their colleagues, which contributes to job satisfaction. CRNAs seem to share similar goals and take pride in their chosen profession. When a CRNA is committed to providing the best patient care and improving that care based upon their experiences, they will likely derive much personal satisfaction from their career.
CRNA jobs often offer a high level of professional responsibility and autonomy. Because CRNAs are experts in their field, they are often called upon to make critical decisions regarding the care of their patients. While this sometimes creates a high-stress environment, a job well done can lead to high personal satisfaction. Since a CRNA can practice in virtually all types of medical settings, he or she has the ability to find a job that is well suited to his or her individual skills and interests. The ability of some CRNAs to make specific choices regarding where they practice, what types of patients they most often see, and what types of procedures they specialize in make a lifelong career as a CRNA very fulfilling.
The Future for CRNAs
Obtaining certification as a CRNA is a step into a career field with many growth opportunities. The CRNA jobs outlook in the United States appears to be very positive. As the population ages and the demand for healthcare and anesthesia services increases, medical facilities will need to make smart staffing choices to help keep their costs as low as possible. Based on recent studies, CRNAs are proving to be the most cost-effective solution for healthcare facilities looking to provide quality anesthesia services. With the current government-lead emphasis on reducing the cost of health care for private payers, insurance companies, and hospitals, the benefit of hiring a CRNA has never been more pronounced. CRNAs graduating today are entering an environment where their specialized skills and expertise are in high demand, and it appears as though that demand will only continue to increase in the near future.