Difference between a Nurse Anesthetist and an Anesthesiologist

By: | Updated: Nov-18, 2017

In the healthcare setting, a nurse anesthetist and an anesthesiologist seem to share the same responsibilities. However, there are distinct differences between the two in terms of salary, education and supervisory roles.

Summary Table

Nurse AnesthetistAnesthesiologist
A certified registered nurse anesthetistA licensed medical physician
Must obtain advanced qualifications including graduate-level education and a nursing board certificate in anesthesiaMust obtain a medical degree in anesthesia
May require supervision from an anesthesiologist or a board-certified physicianWorks independently
Typically confined to a specific healthcare facilityDelivers services to multiple healthcare facilities
Usually handles simpler surgical casesUsually handles more complex surgical cases
Salary is around $150,000 – $180,000 per yearSalary is around $300,000 per year

Definitions

nurse anesthetist

In the US, a nurse anesthetist, widely known as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), specializes in administering anesthesia and delivering related care prior, during, and after a surgical, obstetric, diagnostic or therapeutic procedure.

Also called an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN), a nurse anesthetist has acquired advanced qualifications such as a nursing board certificate in anesthesia, along with graduate-level education. A nurse anesthetist collaborates with surgeons, anesthesiologists, and other members of the healthcare team to provide optimum care to patients who are scheduled for surgery.

An anesthesiologist, on the other hand, is a medical doctor trained in the perioperative field. Working hand-in-hand with other physicists and anesthetists, an anesthesiologist is responsible for performing a preoperative assessment and creating an anesthetic plan tailored to a patient’s specific needs.

After medical school, anesthesiologists typically spend around 4 to 10 years on training programs, depending on the qualifications set by their country. During the duration of their course, they undergo various knowledge and skills assessments to qualify for the role.

Nurse Anesthetist vs Anesthesiologist

So what’s the difference between a nurse anesthetist and an anesthesiologist?

Firstly, a nurse anesthetist is a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) who has completed a two or four-year course in nursing. To become a nurse anesthetist, a registered nurse must obtain advanced qualifications, including graduate-level education and a nursing board certificate in anesthesia. Meanwhile, an anesthesiologist is a licensed medical physician who typically spends around 4 to 10 years on training programs to obtain a medical degree in anesthesia.

Despite playing similar roles, a nurse anesthetist and an anesthesiologist are different in terms of job scope and limitations. Depending on the rules and regulations of their state, anesthetists may require supervision from an anesthesiologist or a board-certified physician. Anesthesiologists, by contrast, can work independently inside or outside a hospital setting.

In connection with this, since nurse anesthetists may need supervision, they are usually confined in a specific healthcare setting, while anesthesiologists have the freedom to deliver services to multiple facilities.

Between the two, anesthesiologists assume bigger responsibilities. Unlike nurse anesthetists, who manage simpler surgical cases, anesthesiologists provide perioperative care to patients with more complex health conditions.

Lastly, in terms of salary, anesthesiologists earn about double the annual salary of nurse anesthetists, which range from $150,000 to $180,000.

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