What is the Difference Between a Nurse Anesthetist and an Anesthesiologist?

The Basics

There are a lot of different specialties within the medical field and understanding the difference between them can be difficult. People who are thinking about moving into these medical professions need to understand the different requirements and job duties related to each type of position so they can make the best choice for their career and preferences.

Nurse Anesthetists and Anesthesiologists perform similar and related duties in hospitals and clinics, but the educational requirements for this positions are quite different and very specific. So anyone who wants to move into one of these career paths needs to understand the differences.

Education Requirements

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse Anesthetists are highly trained medical professionals with a strong educational background. To become a Nurse Anesthetist, students need to complete a Bachelor degree in Nursing, which takes 3-4 years depending on the program. They must then become a licensed Registered Nurse.

Once the applicant is a Registered Nurse, they should try to get experience in acute care nursing positions by working in either emergency care or intensive care for 2-3 years. This will give them the practical experience they need to be accepted into a Master’s level nurse anesthesia program.

The goal of these programs is to give students the specialized training, practical experience and theoretical knowledge to assist patients and doctors with all aspects of anesthesia care. These programs typically take about 3 years to complete, and afterwards students have to take and pass an exam to become a certified Nurse Anesthetist.


The education requirements for Anesthesiologists are quite different and more time intensive than those for Nurse Anesthetists. Students first need to complete a four year Bachelor degree with a pre-med focus. This usually includes a variety of science and math subjects.

After successfully completing the Bachelor degree, students can move on to the 4 year graduate education resulting in a degree in medicine or osteopathy. The goal of these programs is to give students a wide range of experience and knowledge in medicine that will allow them to choose a medical specialty that suits their preferences and training.

Students who want to move on to become an Anesthesiologist need to complete a four year residency in anesthesiology. This gives them the practical experience they need to become fully trained and certified Anesthesiologists. Residents can also complete an additional year of study or fellowship in specific areas of anesthesiology if they wish to specialize further.

Job Duties

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse Anesthetists have a varied range of duties and responsibilities. Generally, they work with physicians and Anesthesiologists to ensure that patients get safe and effective anesthesia care during medical procedures. They are involved with surgical procedures, but also have a role in therapeutic, obstetric and diagnostic procedures. They provide comprehensive patient care before, during and after these procedures.

Their duties begin before the surgical or medical procedure is carried out because they are responsible for taking patient histories and discussing the procedure with the patient so they understand everything that is going to happen.

During the procedure, the Nurse Anesthetist administers the anesthesia under the supervision of a physician or anesthesiologist and monitors the patient throughout the procedure to ensure that there are no problems or adverse effects. This can sometimes be the most challenging part of their job, and is the reason why Nurse Anesthetists have to be trained and experienced in CPR and other emergency life saving measures and procedures. Throughout the procedure they also have to monitor and evaluate the patient to ensure that the anesthesia is working properly and does not require adjustments.

After the procedures, Nurse Anesthetists continue to monitor patients for problems or concerns and act accordingly if any occur. They also continue to provide patients with advice and clinical care in the weeks and months after the surgery to ensure the best possible outcome for the patient. Nurse Anesthetists are also responsible for monitoring patient’s pain levels and assisting with various medical solutions and strategies and this is a big part of the after surgical care they provide.

Although Nurse Anesthetists work under the supervision of an Anesthesiologist in most hospital settings they are fully trained professionals and are sometimes the sole provider of anesthesia services in settings such as rural hospitals.


An Anesthesiologist is a medical doctor who provides patient care before, during and after surgical and medical procedures. Their aims are to ensure that the patient understands the procedure they’re about to undergo, has a safe and pain free surgical experience and achieves the best outcome possible afterwards.

Before the procedure, the Anesthesiologist meets with the patient to evaluate their medical condition and to perform their own assessment to ensure that the patient is healthy enough to undergo the anesthesia. This typically involves ordering various diagnostic procedures such as X-rays and blood tests. They also explain the procedure itself to the patient and answer any questions they might have.

During the procedure the Anesthesiologist administers the anesthesia and carefully monitors the patient’s vital signs to ensure that the medication is working and that there are no ill effects. During this time they have to be aware of the signs and symptoms of problems and concerns and be ready to act appropriately to safeguard the patient’s life and health. Once the procedure is complete, the Anesthesiologist has to administer the correct drugs to bring the patient back to consciousness safely and at the right time.

After the procedure the Anesthesiologist continues to monitor the patient’s overall condition and prescribes further medications or interventions in case of reactions or problems as a result of the surgery or the anesthesia. They do this by ordering tests and other diagnostic procedures which allow them to comprehensively evaluate the patient’s medical condition. They also assist patients with pain management measures and strategies if necessary.

Work Environment

Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse Anesthetists can work in a variety of medical environments depending on their interests and qualifications. Most often they can be found in outpatient surgical clinics, hospitals, or office based surgical clinics. They are most often required to perform surgical duties, which means they spend a lot of their time in operating rooms administering and monitoring patients during anesthesia.

Nurse Anesthetists are meant to be able to replace Anesthesiologists in some settings and situations. Because the demand for Anesthesiologists is so high at the moment, there just aren’t enough of these medical professionals to fill the need and so the nursing role was expanded to include this specialization. As a result, Nurse Anesthetists are in high demand in a variety of fields and work environments.

Nurse Anesthetists can work in a variety of general surgical settings but sometimes choose to undergo further training and study. This allows them to specialize in fields such as dental, pediatric, critical care, respiratory care, neurosurgical, or obstetric.


Anesthesiologists can be found in a variety of settings these days. Because of the high demand for this profession, the need for this specialty is no longer confined just to hospital or outpatient surgical settings. They can also be found in dental surgeries, pain management clinics, critical and intensive care units, and in teaching and research positions.

They can also be found in delivery units, where they assist in pain management and administer epidurals during labor. Their working environment is highly dependent on their own training and preferences and this list of potential workplaces is by no means comprehensive.


Nurse Anesthetist

Fully trained and experienced Nurse Anesthetists make a very good living. As of May 2018, according to Payscale, they make an average of $145,504 a year with a wage range between $101,000 and $189,000 a year.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), as of May 2017, they make an average hourly wage of $81.47 and an average yearly wage of $169.450, though this can vary depending on where they work. The most common place for Nurse Anesthetists to work, as well as the most lucrative, are physician’s offices, medical and surgical hospitals and outpatient centers.


Because Anesthesiologists require more extensive training, they also enjoy a higher rate of pay than Nurse Anesthetists. According to Payscale, as of May 2018, the average yearly salary for people in this profession is $269,612, but the yearly rate ranges between $110,110 and $405,477.

According to the BLS, in 2017, average yearly salary of Anesthesiologists was $265,990 and average hourly wage was $127.88. Industries with the highest level of employment in this occupation include physician’s offices, medical and surgical hospitals and outpatient centers, and this is also where Anesthesiologists can get the best pay rates as well.

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