A master’s degree in nurse anesthesia, one of the highest-paying master’s degrees, can prepare you for work as a specialized type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Nurse anesthetists are highly educated nurses who administer medications that provide pain relief and induce loss of consciousness in clinical practice. Although the process of becoming a nurse anesthetist takes a good deal of time, most nurse anesthetists find the advanced education and training worthwhile, reporting high rates of job satisfaction.
Ranking Job Satisfaction for Nurse Anesthetists
Nurse anesthetist has been ranked as a top career, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. For 2021, the nurse anesthetist occupation landed the 15th-place spot on U.S. News & World Report’s ranking of the Best Health Care Jobs. The career scored a 10 out of 10 in terms of salary and also had above-average marks for upward mobility, according to U.S. News & World Report.
In the 2017 Medscape Nurse Career Satisfaction Report, a vast majority – 97 percent – of APRNs who had earned the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) credential reported being happy in their careers. Further, 80 percent of CRNAs surveyed said that they would choose a nursing career again.
Over 100 nurse anesthetists who reported their levels of job satisfaction to PayScale gave the career an average job satisfaction rate of 4.2 out of 5.
Money alone doesn’t make a job satisfying, but having a high earning potential certainly doesn’t hurt. Nurse anesthetist is a high-paying role with a lucrative six-figure salary that can make the advanced training and even the more stressful days feel worthwhile. The median salary for nurse anesthetists, $174,790, is more than twice that of registered nurses, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). Nurse anesthetists also earn more than other types of APRNs. Nurse practitioners earn a median salary of $109,83, while nurse midwives report a median wage of $105,030.
The highest-paying environments for nurse anesthetists, outpatient care centers, earn an average annual salary of $224,630, according to the BLS. That works out to $108 per hour.
Autonomy and Skill Variety
Two of the biggest factors in nurse anesthetists’ job satisfaction ratings are autonomy and variety of skill, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. As a whole, nurse anesthetists have a considerable amount of autonomy. The more rural a location is, the more autonomy a nurse anesthetist is likely to have. Nurse anesthetists account for 80 percent of anesthesia professionals in rural counties, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists reported.
Administering anesthesia requires a broad array of skills. It isn’t as simple as giving the patient medicine. The nurse anesthetist must select the right type of anesthesia – local, regional or general – as well as the specific medication (or medications) to use. Then there is the necessity of accurately calculating the correct dosages of that medication. The nurse anesthetist must know when to use a drug, when a drug is contraindicated, what its risks are, how to correctly calculate and administer the dose and what to do in case of a complication. Jobs that allow the nurse anesthetist to exercise a greater variety of their skills tend to be more rewarding and satisfying, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.
Nurse anesthetists also report the ability to help others, including by relieving patients’ pain and keeping them comfortable, as one of the pros of the career path.
Stress in the Nurse Anesthetist Occupation
Compared to the hectic work of registered nurses and nurse practitioners in specialties like emergency, trauma, cardiology and labor and delivery, the work environment and job duties of a nurse anesthetist may seem relatively peaceful. During much of their clinical interactions with patients, the patient is unconscious. Nurse anesthetists spend much of their time monitoring patients’ vital signs.
Of course, the flip side of this is the high level of responsibility that goes along with this job duty. When something goes wrong with a patient’s vitals, immediate intervention may be required. That’s a lot of pressure when the patient’s well-being, and quite possibly their life, is in your hands. While the job duties of a nurse anesthetist may not be as stressful in certain ways as that of other nursing roles, they can be much more stressful in other ways.
The level of stress that nurse anesthetists encounter can contribute to burnout, but researchers have determined that lowering the level of job demand and raising the level of job resources, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.