RN anesthetists -- more correctly called certified registered nurse anesthetists, or CRNAs -- are one of a group of advanced practice nurses who perform physician functions. CRNAs have been in existence since 1956, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, and administer more than 33 million anesthetics each year. In rural areas, CRNAs may be the only anesthesia providers. Their salaries reflect the extensive education and high level of responsibility they have.
CRNAs are registered nurses who have a minimum of a master’s degree. An RN must have a valid license and at least one year’s experience to enter a CRNA program. The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, or AANA, issued a position statement in 2007 that by 2025, all CRNAs must have a doctorate to enter practice. Doctoral educational preparation is similar to that of a physician. CRNAs must be licensed in all states and many states also require that CRNAs be certified to practice. CRNAs and anesthesiologists perform the same functions.
Billing for Services
One of the differences between CRNAs and RNs in general is that CRNAs are allowed to bill directly for their services. Medicare awarded billing rights to CRNAs in 1986, according to the AANA -- the first nursing specialty to have this right. The ability to bill for services affects CRNA income. Managed care plans as well as the federal government recognize CRNAs as lower-cost providers of high-quality anesthesia care, since CRNAs usually earn less for the same work than anesthesiologists, who had an average annual salary of $234,950 in 2011, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Becker’s Hospital Review reported that in 2011, the average salary for a CRNA was close to $169,000.
CRNAs Compared to RNs
Advanced practice nurses such as CRNAs usually earn more than RNs in general, according to The Initiative on the Future of Nursing at the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. For example, in 2010, the foundation reported staff nurses earned an average annual salary of $61,706. Clinical nurse specialists and nurse practitioners, who are also advanced practice nurses, earned $72,856 and $85,025 respectively. Senior managers in nursing earned $96,735. CRNAs, however, had the highest income of the group and earned an average of $154,221 annually.
Gender and Experience
Gender and experience affect CRNA earnings, according to Becker’s Hospital Review. CRNAs with less than five years of experience earned $154,674 and CRNAs with more than 12 years of experience earned $176,468. Although most CRNAs are female, the AANA says 40 percent are male -- a much higher percentage than in nursing in general. Male CRNAs earned more in 2011 than their female counterparts, with an average annual salary of $171,700 for men compared to $160,680 for women.
- Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists at a Glance
- AANA Position on Doctoral Preparation of Nurse Anesthetists
- U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics: May 2011 National Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates United States
- Initiative on the Future of Nursing: The Future of Nursing -- Leading Change, Advancing Health
- Becker’s Hospital Review: Average CRNA Salary in 2011 Nears $169k
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