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13 Pros and Cons of Being a CRNA


Written By: Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN

Have you ever thought about a career as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), but you are not entirely sure what it is all about? I’m guessing you will want to know the ins and outs of this career before you sign up for such an undertaking. I’m sure you also have that predictable question of, what are the pros and cons of being a CRNA? Well, you are in luck. I have actually answered that question for you. Keep on reading below to find out the top 13 pros and cons of being a certified registered nurse anesthetist.


What is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist?


A certified registered nurse anesthetist or CRNA is an advanced practice Registered nurse whose primary job is to administer anesthesia to patients who are undergoing medical procedures or surgery. Another core function of this advanced practice registered nurse is monitoring the patient throughout the procedure and during the recovery period. A certified registered nurse anesthetist is very versatile in where they can be employed. You may find a CRNA working in multiple units of a hospital such as labor and delivery, the operating room, or intensive care units, to name a few. You may find CRNAs in ambulatory clinics, pain management centers, or nursing research facilities.


TOP CONS OF BEING A CRNA

(The following are the top 13 disadvantages of being a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.)

1. You will first need to obtain your four-year nursing degree.

The first step in becoming a CRNA is that you will need to successfully complete your four-year nursing degree. This means that you will need to graduate with a Bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) from an accredited institution. Sounds pretty simple right, well let’s not get ahead of ourselves. The BSN degree is actually an extremely challenging degree to earn. Remember you are dealing with people’s lives so any accredited program you choose to attend will be rigorous and demands a lot from you. When deciding if pursuing a career as a CRNA is right for you, you also have to assess the cost of first obtaining your BSN. The typical BSN program will cost anywhere from $8,590 to $201,610 for your undergraduate education not including fees, books, and your everyday expenses. The cost of your BSN program and the amount of time and dedication you must put into the first step of your education towards becoming a CRNA will require you to assess if this career is worth it before starting to deeply analyze the pros and cons of being a CRNA.

2. You will need to keep your GPA up.

If your dream is to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist ultimately, you should try to buckle down and do well in your undergraduate classes because you will need a GPA of 3.0 or higher for most CRNA programs. Also, while we are on the subject of your grades, it would definitely benefit you to ensure that your math and science grades are on the higher side. CRNA programs will look at the math and sciences since these courses are foundations for a CRNA career.

3. You will need to pass the NCLEX successfully.

In order to practice as a registered nurse, you will need to pass the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) in order to earn your Nursing license. This exam which is developed by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and tests the candidate’s skills and knowledge necessary for an entry-level nurse. Passing this exam is critical to becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist because you cannot work as a nurse without a license. Not passing this exam will hinder you from gaining the necessary experience needed to be accepted into a CRNA program.

4. You will need critical care experience.

Due to the nature of a CRNA's work, you will need to have critical care experience prior to being accepted into a CRNA program. In the critical care environment, you will gain the knowledge and essential skills that act as a foundation for your CRNA program. For example, Columbia University School of Nursing requires that you have at least one year of critical care experience. This institution will only accept critical care experience from a Surgical ICU, a Medical ICU, a Pediatric ICU, a Cardiovascular ICU, a Coronary Care Unit, a Burn Unit, a Trauma ICU, and a Neuro ICU. There are other programs that will require more than a year of ICU experience.

5. You will need to earn an advanced practice nursing degree.

You will not be able to practice as a certified registered nurse anesthetist with just your Bachelor’s degree in nursing. You must hold a graduate degree from an accredited institution to sit for certification in this field. At this current time, a minimum of a Master’s degree is required to practice as a CRNA, but that will be changing soon. By the year 2025, all new CRNAs will be required to hold a doctorate degree in order to practice as a CRNA. This new educational requirement is one of the top disadvantages of being a CRNA. Think about all the extra time and money you will be spending due to this new requirement.

6. You may not be able to work full time.

Many CRNA programs are incredibly intensive. These programs will require a great deal of time and attention on your part. Unlike other advanced nursing degrees that hold classes once a week, a CRNA program will encompass multiple days per week. If you are in school and or clinical for numerous days a week and need to fit in studying, when would you be able to work? If you are someone who needs to work to keep your house running or to pay for your CRNA program, then not being able to work or having to cut down on your work hours is surely one of the top disadvantages of being a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

7. Your education will be very expensive.

Earning your CRNA degree will come with a pretty hefty price tag. For example, Rush University costs $1224.00 per credit hour. The program is 77 credits long. That means that your education will cost you around $94,000 for tuition alone. This figure does not include additional fees and books. You also need to factor in your cost of living, and whether you can work or not will also impact how the cost of these programs will affect you. Rush University is also considered one of the more affordable Universities, so the cost of a CRNA program at most other universities will be much higher. Now you also need to take into account the money you already spent on your BSN. All of the money that you will have to spend in order to complete your education is definitely one of the biggest disadvantages of being a CRNA.

8. You may need to take out loans.

So, now that I have shown you how much one of the more affordable certified registered nurse anesthetist programs costs, how do you plan on paying for it? Unless you have quite a hefty savings account, you then may need to take out loans for your education. Sure, these loans seem like a great idea in order to solve the immediate problem, but you will have to pay these loans back with interest. This could quite possibly land you in a reasonable amount of debt.

9. You will need to become certified.

Upon graduation, you will be eligible to sit for the National Certification Examination (NCE). You will need to successfully pass this exam in order to practice as a CRNA. This exam will evaluate the knowledge, skills, and abilities that you have gained in your nurse anesthesia program. Once you pass this exam, you will then need to maintain your certification. In order to maintain certification, you will have to recertify every four years and take and pass a new exam every eight years. Recertification will also require you to complete around 100 units of continuing education. The fact that after passing the NCELX-RN, you once again have to pass an exam is one of the top disadvantages of being a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

10. You will have a huge responsibility.

As a CRNA, you will be responsible for human life. The art of anesthesia is an absolute benefit to the medical field. Still, it also comes with a considerable amount of risk. When you are a certified registered nurse anesthetist, you have the responsibility to keep your patients safe during their procedures. There is an extremely low margin of error in this career. You will have to be at the top of your game at all times.

11. You will have to have malpractice insurance.

I don’t know about you but having to have my own malpractice insurance seems a bit scary to me. It would lead me to wonder how often I would get sued that I would need this. CRNAs are one of the careers that have the most malpractice claims filed against them. Sure, most employers will have some coverage for the CRNAs, but will it be enough coverage and protection if there is a sentinel event. In order to protect yourself, you will need private malpractice insurance. The average malpractice insurance for a CRNA is around $3,900 per year. Keep in mind that this cost increase depending on if you need more coverage and specific riders.

12. You can have a crazy schedule.

Given that a CRNA can work in a variety of settings, there are many different work schedules that you could have. Some of these work schedules may be less desirable than others. You can never plan when a patient will need anesthesia. This may have you working days, nights, weekends, or holidays. You find yourself on-call during these times as well. The schedule of a certified registered nurse anesthetist can really affect your social and personal life.

13. You will be at risk of exposure to pathogens.

As a CRNA you will be in contact with many different patients during your career. At some point, you will certainly care for a patient with a contagious illness. In some cases, you will know about their illness before your come in contact with them, and for others, you will not. Either of these scenarios can put you in a position to contract this illness yourself, making this one of the critical factors to consider while weighing the pros and cons of being a CRNA.


TOP PROS OF BEING A CRNA

(The following are the top 13 advantages of being a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.)

1. You will have a high earning potential

As a certified registered nurse anesthetist, you can expect to make an excellent living. The mean annual wage for a CRNA is around $189,000 a year. The top salary for this career path can be as high as $270,000 per year. Wow, that is a lot of money and is definitely one of the top advantages of being a CRNA. Think about all you could do with that income.

2. You will be in demand.

If you choose the career of a CRNA, then you can rest assured that you will always be in demand. Being in demand is one of the huge pros of being a CRNA. The demand for this profession is projected to increase by 16% by 2025. The increase in demand for CRNAs is due to the fact that there is an aging population that has increased comorbidities and increased chronic conditions. These two factors have led to an increase in the need for surgery.

3. You can work in a variety of settings.

As a certified registered nurse anesthetist, you can work in a variety of settings. Some environments where CRNAs are utilized are labor and delivery units, hospital operating rooms, outpatient centers, pain management clinics, critical care units, and in the ambulatory procedural areas. Physician offices will also utilize CRNAs. Some of these physician offices that certified registered nurse anesthetists may work in are ophthalmologists, dentists, podiatrists, pain clinics, and plastic surgeons, to name a few. They can also be found in government and military medical facilities, research facilities, or you could venture into the world of academia and teach. As a CRNA, you have so many different work environments to choose from, so if one work environment does not feel right to you, well, you can try another. Having so much versatility in your work environment is one of the advantages of being a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

4. You will have a great deal of autonomy.

As a CRNA, you have an extensive knowledge base and skill set, which enables you to make critical decisions related to your patient’s case. You can make decisions on your own to keep your patient safe. You do not need to take orders from somebody else. You have control over your patient’s care.

5. You can have a pretty flexible schedule.

Depending on the environment that you work in, you can have a variety of schedules available. This can be a massive plus to some people. Maybe working nights is more conducive to your life, or perhaps you feel that 9-5 is a better fit for you. You can also have the option to work full-time, part-time, on-call, or per diem. The take-home here is that you have the ability to find a schedule that will fit you and your needs.

6. Do you like to travel?

As a CRNA, you could combine your love of travel and the need to work. Many facilities will fill their staffing needs with temporary travel staff which means a benefit for you. This is the perfect opportunity for you to see the country while you are working. Keep in mind, many of the travel contracts pay really well and subsidize your moving expenses and housing while on contract.

7. Your training period will be shorter compared to an Anesthesiologist

As a certified registered nurse anesthetist, you can pretty much perform the same tasks that an anesthesiologist can, except your training is shorter. Having this shorter training period can be beneficial in the fact that you will be able to get out there and work right away. The shorter training period is definitely one of the advantages of being a CRNA. You could definitely start paying off your debt sooner than an anesthesiologist.

8. You can be proud of your accomplishment.

Becoming a CRNA is not an easy task. The coursework is demanding and downright hard. When assessing the pros and cons of being a CRNA, you must think about how prestigious earning this degree is and how not many people can say that they have successfully completed this career path. You should be incredibly proud of yourself.

9. You could be an independent contractor.

As an independent contractor CRNA, you can make your own schedule and earn a higher hourly pay rate than somebody who is considered staff. Being an independent contractor gives you even more independence and autonomy in your life. You are essentially a business owner. That sounds pretty amazing!

10. Your every day will be different.

Sure, every day, you will be providing anesthesia to patients, but your patients will always be different and have different needs. Every patient you will be coming in contact with will have various reasons for seeking care. You might find that you can also learn something regarding whatever ails your patient. You essentially will never be bored which is one of the pros of being a CRNA.

11. You will always be able to find a job.

Healthcare is pretty much never going anywhere. It will always be a staple in this world. People will always need procedures and surgery under sedation. Your unique set of skills will enable you always to be able to find a job. You could travel across the country from where you are living now, and rest assured you will be able to apply for numerous jobs.

12. You will be able to help others.

You will be part of a team that will help others on their road to recovery. Anesthesia is needed in many cases, from an emergency procedure to an epidural for pain management. Regardless of the circumstance or setting, you will enable people to receive the care they need in a pain-free environment. Being such a big part of helping others is by far one of the biggest advantages of being a certified registered nurse anesthetist.

13. You could be the reason somebody is alive.

As a CRNA, you have many different duties and tasks that will be performed throughout the day. At times emergency measures must be instituted in order to save a patient’s life. If a patient becomes unstable regardless of the setting, your expertise can mean life or death for a patient regardless of the setting. You not only can provide them with an artificial airway to keep them breathing, but you can provide the patient with life-saving medications and fluids in order to stabilize them. Not everybody can look back on their career and say they saved somebody’s life. You are kind of like a hero and in my book that is one of the top pros of being a CRNA.


The Bottom Line


A career as a certified registered nurse anesthetist can provide you with many opportunities in your personal life and in your work life. You will be viewed as a true asset to the medical community but is it really worth all the blood sweat and tears it will take to get to the finish line? So, let's go back to that question, do you know, what are the pros and cons of being a CRNA? I’m sure you do after reading the top 13 pros and cons of being a certified registered nurse anesthetist that I have provided for you. Now, your job is to decide if the pros of this career are worth sticking out the cons. I mean this is a job that you could potentially be doing for the rest of your career, so you better be sure.


Jennifer Schlette MSN, RN
Jennifer Schlette is a registered nurse in pediatric critical care in New York City. She is the former Director of Undergraduate Nursing at a college located in New York. After obtaining her BSN from the College of Mount Saint Vincent, she went on to complete her MSN.