What Is The Difference Between A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist And An Anesthesiologist?

Anesthesiologists and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNA) are both medical professionals who work with surgeons and doctors in different medical and surgical procedures. They both administer anesthesia to patients to help alleviate their pain or eliminate the feeling completely when the patient is going under the knife. Before and during any medical procedure, anesthesiologists and CRNAs work together with other medical professionals in planning the operation. They also monitor the patient’s vital signs during the procedure and make adjustments to the anesthesia doses if this is necessary. After the operation, CRNAs and anesthesiologists are still there to monitor the patient, continuing to administer medications to alleviate their pain.

However, both CRNAs and anesthesiologists also differ from each other in terms of their designations, training and functions. The most obvious difference between CRNAs and anesthesiologists is the fact that the former is a registered nurse while the latter is a medical doctor. CRNAs are advanced practice registered nurses who have obtained at least a master’s degree in the field. CRNAs get their certification from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists by passing an exam. They must also renew their certification every two years by complying with the continuing education requirements.

Anesthesiologists, meanwhile, are medical doctors who have gone to four years of formal medical school after obtaining their bachelor’s degree. They then specialize in anesthesiology during their residency so they can practice as anesthesiologists. Like other doctors, they have to pass the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination to be licensed to practice.

The other difference between the two professions is the degree of supervision they need for their practice which varies from state to state. They follow the same process in administering anesthesia to the patients but in some states, CRNAs can only give anesthesia if they are supervised by a board-certified physician. This basically confines them to the hospital or healthcare setting where they work. Anesthesiologists, on the other hand, are able to do their job without anyone supervising them. This basically allows them to work in different healthcare settings in the state where they are licensed to practice anesthesiology.

While this is not a general rule, it has also been commonly observed that anesthesiologists are typically found in larger facilities like hospitals while CRNAs work in smaller facilities like clinics or doctor’s offices. Plastic surgeons, for example, usually hire CRNAs for their practice to reduce expenses. Data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed that the mean annual wages of advanced practice registered nurses like CRNAs is much less than that of anesthesiologists. The latest data showed that anesthesiologists were paid $235,070 a year on the average while nurse anesthetists got $157,690 a year.

Since patients requiring intensive and emergency care are brought to hospitals, another difference is the kind of situations that both professionals deal with. Anesthesiologists usually find themselves handling more complicated cases compared to CRNAs who work in smaller settings.

Career Spotlight: Anesthesiologist

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