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Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) vs. Registered Nurse (RN)

By Emily O'Brien On Aug 26, 2022
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When it comes to pursuing a career in nursing, there are numerous paths to follow. This includes entering the field as well as growing and advancing to new positions. When registered nurses (RNs) desire a higher level of nursing, they can become advanced practice nurses or certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). Both options broaden skill sets and offer opportunities for more challenging levels of nurse leadership responsibilities.

CRNAs vs. RNs: Overview

A certified registered nurse anesthetist treats patients of all ages during surgery while safely administering anesthetic care. Most CRNAs work in hospitals or inpatient surgery centers. Some are needed at private practices with a heavy surgical volume, like plastic surgery centers or dental offices. Preparing patients for surgery, managing their pain during the procedure, and then monitoring patients afterward are all part of the responsibility. Anesthesia provides immediate results, which can be satisfying for CRNAs. The patient might come in with a great deal of pain but then, with the help of medicine, immediately feel happy and calm. Those who do best in this nursing role are confident, able to make quick decisions, and highly motivated, and they enjoy the ability to function autonomously.

The US Bureau of Labor Statistics expects nurse CRNA roles to increase by a whopping 45 percent between now and 2030. They may work as the primary anesthesia providers in rural and underserved communities.

RNs, however, spend their day wearing several different hats, ensuring each patient receives the care they need. They assess and identify necessities and implement and monitor medical treatment plans. RNs help coordinate care with different medical care team members by drawing blood, administering medication, performing wound care, and assisting in medical procedures.

For a nurse to transition to a CRNA role, they must earn a master’s of science in nursing, allowing them to be an advanced practice nurse or APRN. In addition to the APRN certification, to enter a CRNA program, at least one year of experience in a critical care unit is needed. Then one must complete the CRNA program and become certified. For RNs, the job outlook is still faster than the average of other occupations; the need is projected to grow by nine percent from 2020 to 2030.

CRNAs vs. RNs: Similarities

For registered nurses and CRNAs, there are several similarities. Both care for patients, acting as medical advocates. Additionally, both are required to be certified and licensed by the state, although specific requirements and criteria vary.

A common skillset is shared between both professions including compassion and empathy and excellent communication skills, plus the ability to stay calm and level-headed during elevated times of stress.

CRNAs vs. RNs: Differences

Registered nurses coordinate and provide patient care. This might also include educating patients and their families about health conditions. To become a nurse, one must obtain a bachelor’s or associate’s degree in nursing, or a diploma from an approved nursing program. All registered nurses must be licensed to practice. Time spent in school might range from two to four years or more, depending on the route and educational program. The higher you climb in nursing the more additional schooling is needed.

CRNA schooling is demanding and intense. Some selective programs only admit about 10 to 20 percent of applicants. When it comes to anesthesia, everything matters. Patients must be monitored with the utmost degree of attention, as surgery places patients in vulnerable states. Although CRNAs follow the same route to nursing school, the requirements are more rigorous than the traditional registered nurse path. It may take seven or eight years of education and experience to practice as a CRNA. Depending on current credentials and program requirements, nurses with an MSN might finish a full-time program in one to two years, while a nurse with an ADN might take six years or more to finish.

While both positions necessitate passing a certification exam, the tests themselves are quite different. Registered nurses must complete the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-RN) exam to determine competency and whether or not it’s safe to begin practice as an entry-level nurse. CRNAs are certified through the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).

The pay also varies greatly between the two positions. Experience level, education, and geographic location also differ. CRNAs earn more than registered nurses, often well into six digits, practicing in many states without physician supervision.

CRNAs vs. RNs: Continuing Education

While CRNA licensing varies between states, everyone will require specific certification. Continuing education credits (CEUs) are necessary to maintain licensure. Some states require RNs to obtain a certain amount of CEUs, but regardless, it’s encouraged no matter what, to keep nurses up to date on the latest advances in healthcare and treatments.

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