The responsibilities of anesthetists and anesthesiologists are similar in that they are both licensed professionals who can administer anesthesia. There are also big differences in the positions, principally in the level of training they have to undergo and the level of care they are responsible to give.
Differences in the Jobs
Certified registered nurse anesthetists are RNs with advanced studies in anesthesia. They work in hospitals, clinics and home health facilities and are permitted to administer anesthesia. Some of their work is done as part of an anesthesia team consisting of other CRNAs, an anesthesiologist and anesthesiologist assistants; however, they are licensed to work independently.
Anesthesiologists are medical doctors who are licensed to administer anesthesia. Due to their extensive training in the fields of science, medicine and specifically anesthesiology, they are trained to handle the administration of any operation requiring anesthesia. They generally advise and oversee the anesthesia team in an operation.
Differences in Responsibilities
The degree to which nurse anesthetists are allowed to practice independently varies by state. In some states, they are allowed to practice independently as long as they communicate the details of their procedures to another responsible party. In other states, they are only allowed to administer anesthesia under the supervision of a licensed physician. The responsibilities of anesthesiologists differ from that of a CRNA in that they are trained in every aspect of anesthesiology. As physicians, they are licensed to diagnose patients and advise courses of actions. Generally, they are held to a higher standard of medical care than that of a CRNA. They can supervise operations as opposed to just administer anesthesia. They are licensed to practice without the order of any other physician.
Differences in Salary
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average annual salary of a nurse anesthetist was $148,160 as of May 2012. In the same time period, the BLS estimates the average annual salary of anesthesiologists at $235,070.
Differences in Training
Nurse anesthetists earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a science-related field, and pass the examination of become a registered nurse. After at least one year of experience as an RN in an acute care setting, they can begin a master’s degree program specializing in anesthesiology, which requires two to three years of study. They then must then pass an examination to practice as certified registered nurse anesthetists. In all, they are required to complete at least 7 years of training after graduation from high school.
Anesthesiologist must first complete four years of study to earn a bachelor’s degree in a premedical-related field. They then attend medical school for four years, followed by four years of residency training, three of which will be specifically related to the study of anesthesiology. They must then pass a medical board certification to become anesthesiologists. In all, they are required to complete at least 12 years of training after graduation from high school.
The work atmosphere of surgical CRNAs and anesthesiologists is demanding. They work under the stress that accompanies medical operations. This includes being responsible for the care of patients in life-threatening situations. However, not all CRNAs and anesthesiologists are surgical. Some of them choose to teach or train instead. Also, some choose to use their knowledge toward research and development, generally less stressful than an operating room.
- American Association of Nurse Anesthetists: Who We Are
- American Society of Anesthesiologists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Nurse Anesthetists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2013: Anesthesiologists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Nurse Anesthetists
- Bureau of Labor Statistics: Physicians and Surgeons
- Photo Credit Trish233/iStock/Getty Images
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