Anesthesia is an important part of the world of medicine. Without it, most surgeries would be unbearable painful enough to actually be impossible. Medical employers are always on the lookout for skilled professionals trained to administer anesthesia. Because of this, a nurse anesthetist career will often make you more in-demand than you ever imagined.

Earning an MSN is the recommended level of education for this career. See Programs>>

Click on one of the links below for more information:

What Is a Nurse Anesthetist?
What Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?
Where Do Nurse Anesthetists Work?
Nurse Anesthetist Schooling- Education for Advanced Students

What Is a Nurse Anesthetist?

Anesthesia is a substance used to block pain and otherwise minimize discomfort during certain medical procedures, particularly surgery. The type of anesthesia used typically depends on the type of procedure being done.

  • General anesthesia can be injected, ingested, or inhaled by a patient and typically results in the complete loss of consciousness of a patient. It is more commonly used during invasive surgical procedures.
  • Local anesthesia is usually injected or absorbed through the skin, and it is usually used to numb just a specific “local’ area of the body.
  • Regional anesthesia involves blocking nerve ending in the body in order to completely numb the area where these nerves sense pain. One of the best examples of regional anesthesia is an epidural used during childbirth.
  • Conscious sedation is also often classified as a type of anesthesia. Patients under conscious sedation still awake, yet very relaxed and unable to feel pain. This type of anesthesia is usually best for procedures in which patients need to be somewhat conscious in order to communicate.

Nurse anesthetists are some of the oldest types of professional nurses in the world. These nurses have brought comfort to surgical patients throughout history, but they started gaining more recognition during the American Civil War. During this war, nurse anesthetists – like Catherine S. Lawrence – spent their days bringing comfort to soldiers who were wounded, undergoing surgery, and recovering from surgery. It wasn’t until 1909, however, long after the Civil War, that the first School of Nurse Anesthesia was opened in St. Vincent’s Hospital in Portland, Oregon. This specialty quickly gained popularity and dozens more nurse anesthesia schools were opened in the following years, and the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) was founded in 1931.

Today, although they practice in more modern facilities, nurse anesthetists are hardly any different than their predecessors. They are still trained to administer anesthesia, as well as monitor patients who are under or coming out of anesthesia. These nursing specialists can sometimes practice alone, depending on which state they’re from, but they usually work in conjunction with other medical professionals as part of anesthesia care teams.

What Does a Nurse Anesthetists Do?

Understanding the Role of a Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists perform a number of important duties before, during, and after the administration of anesthesia.

Before nurse anesthetists administer any type of anesthesia, they must first try to determine which anesthetics are best for their patients. This is usually based on such things as what types of procedures these patients are having as well as their medical histories. By interviewing patients, these nurse specialists can decide how certain anesthetics will affect certain patients and whether or not patients will have allergic reactions to anesthetics. A nurse anesthetic might also be responsible for meeting with patients and explaining how the anesthetic process works and what to expect during the procedure, as well as any risks associated with that particular anesthetic.

Nurse anesthetists are also usually required to prepare for the administration of anesthetics as well. This often involves tasks such as assembling and sterilizing equipment and supplies, as well as readying the patient. Once the patient is prepped and ready, a nurse anesthetist might also need to administer an anesthetic as well.

A nurse anesthetist’s work isn’t even close to done once the anesthetic has been administered. At this point, a nurse anesthetist – along with the rest of the anesthesia care team – will need to monitor the patient to ensure they are not having a bad reaction. This usually involves keeping an eye on the patient’s vital signs and looks.

At the end of these procedures, nurse anesthetists will help transport patients to recovery rooms, where they will continue to monitor them to ensure that they come out of the anesthesia without any serious problems. These nurses will also usually be required to administer post-procedure care.

Where Do Nurse Anesthetists Work?

Nurse anesthetist positions are most commonly found in hospitals that have a surgical unit. However, they might also be employed by clinics and even private practices that perform routine procedures that require light anesthesia or sedation.

Nurse Anesthetist Schooling- Education for Advanced Students

Most nurse anesthetists start their careers as registered nurses (RNs), which involved earning a nursing degree and passing the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Once you gain a few years experience as a nurse, you can then make the decision to continue your education and go on to become a nurse anesthetist.

Generally a master’s degree in general nursing with a concentration in anesthesia will be what is required to enter this profession. If you prefer to work in a sub-specialty of this field, such as pediatrics or obstetrics, you may also need to complete an internship, fellowship, or practicum. Before you can start working as part of an anesthesia care team, you should also become certified as a nurse anesthetist by taking a certification examination administered by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA).