Comparing Career Tracks: Nurse Practitioner vs. Nurse Anesthetist

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Nurse practitioner assists patient after surgery.

There are a variety of career options for students interested in nursing. Two common specializations are nurse practitioner (NP) and certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA).

While there are commonalities between them, such as educational preparation through a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), the careers of NPs and CRNAs differ in many ways. They each require unique skills for success and present different job opportunities and career outlooks for the future.

Those weighing the options of nurse practitioner vs. nurse anesthetist will find this comparison helpful.

Nurse Practitioner Career Track

NPs provide primary, acute, and specialty care to patients of all ages. However, they may specialize in certain areas, such as care for adults, children, women, or psychiatric patients. It’s no surprise that Americans make more than 1 billion visits to NPs each year, according to the American Association of Nurse Practitioners.

NPs provide a range of services, including administering diagnostic tests and treatments, writing prescriptions, and providing counseling for healthier lifestyles and disease prevention. They may work in a variety of settings, such as hospitals, urgent care offices, nursing homes, and schools.

Beyond providing health care, NPs can also act as educators and researchers, conducting analysis in their fields and applying their findings to current practices.

Educational Preparation for Nurse Practitioners

Aspiring NPs must earn a master’s degree in addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in nursing and registered nurse (RN) certification.

The online Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) offered by Regis College prepares nursing professionals to provide advanced care in their chosen specializations.

Specialization-specific courses for NPs include:

  • Primary Care of the Family: I & II
  • Primary Care of Psych-Mental Health
  • Sociological, Political, and Economic Perspectives in Aging

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), nurses with careers that require a master’s degree, such as NPs, earn a 60% higher median salary than nurses with just an RN certification.

Skills Practiced by Nurse Practitioners

Since NPs provide lifetime care and wellness counseling to patients of all ages, it’s crucial for them to have strong communication and interpersonal skills. They must tactfully navigate diagnoses, treatments, and a range of health issues. Compassion, empathy, and emotional fortitude can aid in delivering more effective and professional care, as well as building lasting relationships with patients.

NPs must also have strong leadership skills in their role as educator, mentor, and clinician. They must be able to manage cases and make authoritative decisions about sensitive issues in times of need.

Career Outlook and Salary for Nurse Practitioners

The average salary for NPs is $92,907, according to PayScale. Skills in specialized areas such as acute care, oncology, and cardiology can contribute to higher salaries.

As baby boomers age and retire, the demand for health care services from NPs is expected to increase. The BLS projects opportunities for NPs to grow by 36% between 2016 and 2026, adding 56,100 new jobs to the field.

Nurse Anesthetist Career Track

In looking at nurse practitioner vs. nurse anesthetist, NPs provide a broader range of care, while CRNAs are trained specifically to administer anesthesia to patients in settings such as hospitals, clinics, private practices, and doctors’ offices. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, roughly 53,000 CRNAs administer more than 45 million anesthetics in the U.S. each year.

Along with administering anesthesia, CRNAs can perform patient evaluations to best understand which type of anesthetic should be used. CRNAs also monitor vital signs while the patient is under anesthesia, aid patients in handling recovery and side effects, and make post-procedure evaluations.

Educational Preparation for Nurse Anesthetists

In addition to holding a bachelor’s degree in nursing and registered nurse (RN) certification, aspiring CRNAs must earn a master’s degree from a nurse anesthesia educational program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs.

Courses cover such topics as pharmacology, physiology, professional practices, and pain management. Advanced degree programs also provide nursing professionals with clinical experience administering anesthesia.

Skills Practiced by Nurse Anesthetists

Similar to NPs, CRNAs should have strong communication and interpersonal skills for working with patients and team members. Patients must be able to trust these nurses in administering drugs that put them to sleep or ease pain. As such, CRNAs should convey compassion and empathy when explaining procedures, keeping patients calm and reducing patients’ stress before a surgery or procedure.

Career Outlook and Salary for Nurse Anesthetists

The average salary for CRNAs is $146,212, according to PayScale. Skills in specialized areas such as obstetrics, pediatrics, and emergency/trauma can contribute to higher salaries.

The BLS projects opportunities for CRNAs to grow by 16% between 2016 and 2026, adding 6,800 new jobs to the field.

Learn More

Regis College’s online Master of Science in Nursing is designed to prepare students to launch advanced nursing careers in a growing field. Such training can help nursing professionals develop specialized skills, seek higher salaries, and improve their job outlook.

Those interested in becoming NPs, for example, can choose from specializations in clinical care for families, children, mental health, women’s health, and adult-geriatric patients. Regis College gives students the credentials and confidence they need to succeed in the workforce and make an impact in people’s lives. Explore the Regis MSN program today.

Recommended Readings
Degrees Defined: What Does MSN Mean?
How to Become a Nurse Practitioner: The Road to Advanced Nursing Practice
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner vs. Family Nurse Practitioner: What’s the Difference?

Sources
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Become a CRNA
American Association of Nurse Practitioners, What’s a Nurse Practitioner (NP)?
PayScale, Average Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Salary
PayScale, Average Nurse Practitioner (NP) Salary
Regis College, Online Master of Science in Nursing
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners
U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Registered Nurses