If you want a career with a bit of history attached, consider nursing anesthesia, which has been around since the Civil War, according to Explore Health Careers. In addition to the historical aspects, this is one area in the nursing field that attracts a balance of women and men -- 45 percent of certified registered nurse anesthetists, or CRNAs, are male. CRNAs have a great deal of autonomy and work in many settings.
CRNAs are highly educated -- a minimum of a master’s degree is required and many have doctorates. A CRNA may start her education with a nursing diploma or associate degree, but she’ll have to go on for a baccalaureate before she completes her master's. Expect to spend at least four years getting to the baccalaureate stage and at least another two or three to the master's. It could be longer if you continue to work and go to school part time. The doctorate will take another two or three years at least, and it would be a good idea to go on to that level, because the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists has decided that a doctorate will be required by 2025 for an entry level position.
If you’re a hands-on, technically-oriented sort of person -- you don't have to be a true techno-geek -- nursing anesthesia may be just the thing for you. CRNAs use a wide variety of monitoring equipment in their work; some of it is computerized. Defibrillators, hemodynamic monitors, digital anesthesia machines and intravenous infusion pumps are some of a CRNA’s “toys.” You’ll also need good interpersonal skills. A CRNA doesn’t have a lot of time to spend with each patient, so the ability to establish rapport quickly is important.
Although anesthesiologists and CRNAs deliver almost exactly the same services -- administer anesthesia, manage pain and handle emergencies -- there are projected shortages of both professionals, according to the Rand Corp. Unless new entries into the profession of anesthesiology exceed 2.76 percent annually, Rand projects a shortage of anesthesiologists by 2020. If demand for CRNAs grows at 3 percent annually, Rand predicts equilibrium in supply and demand by 2020. However, Rand also considers a 3 percent growth rate unlikely as the aging population is expected to drive demand at a higher rate, resulting in shortages by 2020.
If you become a CRNA, you can expect to be able to find a job. The Occupational Information Network, or ONET, a service of the U.S. Department of Labor/Employment and Training Administration, says demand should grow between 20 and 28 percent between 2010 and 2020. Overall demand for registered nurses -- remember, a CRNA is also a registered nurse -- is also expected to grow at a rate of 26 percent between 2010 and 2020, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. You should do well financially, too. CRNAs made an average salary of almost $169,000 in 2011, according to "Becker's Hospital Review."
- Explore Health Careers: Nurse Anesthetist
- American Association of Nurse Anesthetists: AANA Announces Support of Doctorate for Entry into Nurse Anesthesia Practice by 2025
- Rand Corp.: An Analysis of the Labor Markets for Anesthesiology
- ONET Online: Summary Report for 29-1151.00 - Nurse Anesthetists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: Registered Nurses
- Becker’s Hospital Review: Average CRNA Salary in 2011 Nears $169k
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