dcsimg

Controversy Rages Around Nurse Anesthetists

In one corner: certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). In the other corner: anesthesiologists.

This seems an unlikely fight, since nurse anesthetists and anesthesiologists are more natural allies than enemies. After all, both groups give anesthesia to patients in the same ways in order to enable surgery and other medical procedures to be performed successfully. But an ongoing debate between these two professional groups recently became a full-blown legal battle. The issue? The decision by certain states to opt-out of a Medicare provision requiring nurse anesthetists to be supervised by a physician when administering anesthesia.

In April 2011, a Colorado judge upheld the state's right to allow nurse anesthetists to work without a supervising anesthesiologist, a Medicare requirement. Colorado had become the sixteenth state, in September 2010, to opt out of this Medicare provision, citing the need to provide such care in rural areas that often cannot attract or support a resident anesthesiologist. The Colorado Society of Anesthesiologists responded by filing a lawsuit against the state. According to the anesthesiologists, opting out would lead to "confusion and misunderstanding" about the responsibilities of physicians and CRNAs, and also would lead to a "diminished level" of care for patients.

Though this nurse vs. doctor battle got ugly at times, the result in Colorado points up the important role that nurse anesthetists play in the health care system and illustrates why the career is in high demand.

Education and compensation of nurse anesthetists

Contradicting the claims of the Colorado plaintiffs, studies undertaken by the Research Triangle Institute and the Lewin Group in 2010 concluded that patient care had not suffered at all in states that had opted out. While these studies were funded by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), leading some to question their impartiality, CRNAs unarguably are highly educated and rigorously trained to provide impeccable care. Nurse anesthetists must be registered nurses who have a bachelor's degree in nursing or an equivalent degree as well as a minimum of a master's degree from an accredited program in nurse anesthesia. According to the AANA, these master's programs last two to three years, include a clinical component and culminate with a national certification exam. Once practicing, CRNAs undertake significant continuing education to keep their licenses.

Given their intensive training, it makes sense that nurse anesthetists are well compensated. The Michigan Department of Energy, Labor and Economic Growth reports that in 2009, CRNAs employed in hospitals and related institutions nationwide earned an average annual salary of $146,000, and chief nurse anesthetists earned an average annual salary of $161,000. These numbers might be conservative; referring to a nationwide survey, The Dallas Business Journal reported in 2008 that the average CRNA salary of $185,000 surpassed the $172,000 average salary of a family physician.

Where nurse anesthetists fit into the big health care picture

Of course, salary is dependent on where a nurse anesthetist is employed, and CRNAs are crucial players in every medical arena, from traditional hospitals to war zones. As the situation in Colorado and other opt-out states like Nebraska, South Dakota and Montana makes clear, rural medical facilities are among the places where CRNAs have the greatest impact. According to the AANA, nurse anesthetists are the only providers of anesthesia in more than two-thirds of rural hospitals in the United States. The Denver Post reports that of the 38 rural Colorado hospitals that anesthetize patients, 24 rely solely on nurse anesthetists. The paper quotes the chief executive of the Rural Health Center, who, in supporting the opt-out decision, said that in these rural hospitals the CRNA usually has more expertise in anesthesia than the supervising physician.

Demand for nurse anesthetists is also being driven by the need to reduce costs within the health care industry. A New York Times editorial published just before the Colorado opt-out took effect pointed out that it is six times more expensive to educate an anesthesiologist than a nurse anesthetist. And though CRNAs make an ample salary, it is about half the average yearly wage of an anesthesiologist.

The Colorado District Court declared the nurse anesthetists the victors in their legal battle with the state anesthesiologist group, but both sides would doubtless agree that outside the courtroom, they are working every day toward the same goal: to safely administer anesthesia to patients. The satisfaction from doing this important work, coupled with the position's excellent growth prospects and high pay, earned nurse anesthetists the distinction of being ranked 13th on CNNMoney.com's 2010 list of the 100 best jobs in America.


Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More

  • DEGREE

    See More

  • PROGRAM TYPE

  • START TIME

    LOCATION
    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.

Searching Searching ...

Matching School Ads
5 Program(s) Found
  • Online Bachelor's programs include Healthcare Management, Public Health, IT, Psychology, BBA & Criminal Justice
  • Dedicated to delivering quality education and personalized attention to students since 1899
  • Provide a range of campus experiences and services online including advising, tutoring, student community, and career services
  • Give students and alumni access to career assistants who help with resumes, cover letters, job hunting, and more.
Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
3 Program(s) Found
  • Online MBA program ranked 6th in the USA by CEO magazine.
  • In a university-sponsored survey, 4 out of 5 alumni reported being satisfied with their experience.
  • #1 Online School for military veterans according to Military Times.
  • 75,000+ graduates across all industries offer extensive networking opportunities.
  • My Unique Student Experience (M.U.S.E.) lets students watch, view, read, or hear content.
  • Smartphone app available for on-the-go learning.
Good for Working Adults
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Program(s) Found
  • At West Coast University, your education can pave the way to your healthcare career
  • With West Coast University, you can choose to study healthcare online or any one of the 6 campuses located in California, Texas or Florida
  • West Coast University has developed programs with learning options to work around the demands of your life
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Program(s) Found
  • As a CCNE-accredited school of nursing, Wilkes University is fully committed to preparing our students for a career of lifelong learning and success in a constantly evolving, dynamic profession.
  • We offer online programs for nurses at any stage in their career. From our R.N. to M.S.N., to our Ph.D. in Nursing, choose the program that is right for you.
  • Learn from doctorally-prepared, highly qualified instructors. Our faculty are true "scholar-practitioners," and bring real-world experience to every subject.
  • Receive a supportive, student-focused online education. Our programs are designed so that you can complete coursework when and where it's convenient for you.
  • We offer accelerated completion options for qualified students in our R.N. to M.S.N. and M.S.N. programs – earn your master’s degree fully online and finish faster.
  • Our net tuition cost for nursing programs is among the most competitive for regionally accredited universities.
  • Online Courses
5 Program(s) Found
  • CCNE-Accredited Master of Science in Nursing Programs
  • Grand Canyon's 4-credit master’s classes allow you to complete your Master of Science in Nursing degree in less time.
  • Our master's in nursing programs include advanced practice roles in primary care and acute care, as well as curriculums which prepare nurses for roles in nursing leadership, nursing education & more.
  • Students can elect to take courses online or through our evening classes which meet just once a week at the Phoenix campus and other satellite locations throughout Arizona.
  • Grand Canyon is highly recognized in the healthcare industry for outstanding programs for practicing nurses who are seeking to further their education.
  • Request information – learn more about program offerings, start dates, financial aid & more!
Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Program(s) Found

An accredited online university, Capella University offers bachelor’s, master’s/MBA, doctoral, and certificate programs designed to take you to the forefront of your profession. Our competency-based curriculum delivers foundational knowledge and real-world skills, so what you’re learning is immediately applicable to your career. Right now, more than 36,000 students are expanding their opportunities with Capella programs.

  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
5 Program(s) Found

The University

With over 80 years of academic achievements, Jacksonville University is a traditional, longstanding institution consistently ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of America's best colleges.

  • Online Courses
3 Program(s) Found

100% Online & No Standardized Testing

We are committed to helping you achieve your goals and complete your degree as quickly as possible.

Show more [+]
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Program(s) Found
  • Allows students to transfer credits from non-U.S. colleges and universities after evaluation.
  • Has students attend one class at a time to ensure easy access to faculty and a more hands-on education.
  • Its main campus is located in Fort Lauderdale, with campuses located throughout the State of Florida and internationally. 
  • Provides a Department of Student Services and Resources that assists students with résumé preparation, interviewing skills coaching, mock interviewing, professional development workshops, and more.
Show more [+]
  • Online Courses
1 Program(s) Found

Saint Mary's University of Minnesota's Online Master's Programs

At Saint Mary's, we take pride in offering online graduate degrees designed to complement the schedules of working adults like you. Get an affordable, convenient education from a top-ranked university that's grounded in real-world applications.

Saint Mary's University's long history of innovation in education continues with the launch of our new iPad® application, allowing for learning on the go. Our commitment to our Lasallian Catholic tradition of continuous learning, ethics and advancing the common good also endures.

  • Online Courses
3 Program(s) Found

Sacred Heart University Online is an affordable and convenient way to earn a degree online from a university ranked among America’s best colleges. Experience Sacred Heart’s signature core values and degree programs based on interactive personal attention, small classes, and rigorous academics offer students a unique life platform for career advancement and personal fulfillment.

  • Online Courses
3 Program(s) Found

Grow Your Career with the University of Saint Mary

The University of Saint Mary is a Catholic institution in Leavenworth, Kansas, that has been educating students since 1923. Guided by the vision of its founders, the Sisters of Charity of Leavenworth, USM seeks to inspire students and to prepare them for value-centered lives and careers that will benefit our global society.

  • Online Courses
1 Program(s) Found
  • Ranked among the 2015 Best National Universities by U.S. News & World Report.
  • Designated as a Military Friendly School every year since 2012 by Victory Media.
  • Offers credit for prior learning and experience through assessment tests.
  • Provides a short term Leadership Certification program in partnership with EQUIP®.
  • Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association (NCA).
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits
1 Program(s) Found
  • Earn your degree online from Ashford University!
  • Choose from Undergraduate and Graduate classes
  • Business, Health Care, Psychology and Liberal Arts programs to choose from
  • Apply Now! Classes begin every Tuesday!
  • Online Courses
1 Program(s) Found
  • A Los Angeles-based private college offering programs in medical sciences, legal studies, and graphic design since 1985.
  • Has weekend programs, including certified  veterinary technology, nurse assistant, and hemodialysis technician.
  • Showcases visual communication students’ artwork and design through campus magazine.
  • 3 campuses in Southern California.
  • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
Show more [+]
Good for Working Adults
  • Accredited
  • Online Courses
  • Flexible Scheduling
  • Accelerated Programs
  • Financial Aid
  • Transferable Credits

Featured Schools