CRNA, NP or PA: Which Career Path Is Right for You?

NP-and-PA
By:
Cross Country Education
Posted:
December 13, 2021 04:25 AM (GMT-05:00)
Categories:
Provider Tips

If you know that you want to become an advanced practice provider (APP), but you haven’t yet decided which role – CRNA, NP or PA – is ideal for you, we’re here to help!

Committing to a career path can be intimidating for anyone. But for those who want to become healthcare providers, the decision can feel even more challenging since the required degrees, clinical hours, licensure and certification are highly specific and a major commitment.

The great news is, if you do a little research and approach this decision strategically, you’ll soon discover the best fit for you. You might also learn a lot about yourself in the process, and you’ll become even more excited about embarking on a rewarding career as a CRNA, NP or PA!

Here’s the scoop on each of these professions – what they do, where they work, how much they earn and more.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

What do CRNAs do?

CRNAs provide anesthesia for patients and work closely with physicians, surgeons, dentists and other providers. Before procedures, they talk with patients about their medications and allergies. CRNAs administer anesthesia, monitor vital signs during procedures and help patients recover afterward. In addition to providing pain management, they also may assist with emergency services.

What are some perks of being a CRNA?

While being a nurse anesthetist can be challenging and even difficult at times, it also can be extremely gratifying. CRNAs care for people of all ages, from infants through seniors. They help patients undergo procedures with less pain and calm those who are anxious. CRNAs enjoy flexible schedules and work environments. They have a great deal of autonomy in their practice, and they are well-compensated for all of their hard work, dedication, training and expertise.

What traits make CRNAs successful?

Successful CRNAs are collaborative, patient, culturally aware, transparent, engaged and accountable. They excel at managing emotions and making informed decisions using experiences, evidence, best practices and additional resources to address each unique situation (AANA).

Where do CRNAs work?

CRNAs practice in settings where anesthesia is administered, including hospitals, delivery rooms, surgical centers, physicians’ offices, dental offices, pain centers, mental health facilities and outpatient care centers. They are particularly needed in rural healthcare, critical access hospitals, military, public health, Veterans Affairs and Indian Health Services.

How much do CRNAs make, and what is the career outlook for CRNAs?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for nurse anesthetists in 2020 was $183,580. The career outlook is positive: there were 44,200 nurse anesthetists practicing in the U.S. as of 2020, and that number is expected to grow by 13% over the next decade (BLS).

How can I become a CRNA?

To become a CRNA, you must first earn a baccalaureate or graduate degree in nursing or another related major. You will also need to be licensed as a registered professional nurse and/or APRN in the U.S. You will need to have a minimum of one year experience as a registered nurse in a critical care setting. Next, you will need to earn a minimum of a master’s degree (doctoral degree beginning in 2022) from an accredited nurse anesthesia program. Then, you must pass the National Certification Exam and keep up with the Continued Professional Certification Program to maintain your certification during your career (AANA).

Where can I learn more about being a CRNA?

If you’re interested in becoming a CRNA, visit American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology, Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program, U.S. Health Resources and Services Administration Nurse Anesthetist Traineeships, and the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists. To see a list of certified CRNA programs, visit Council on Accreditation CRNA School Search.

Nurse Practitioner (NP)

What do nurse practitioners do?

Nurse practitioners serve as primary or secondary healthcare providers for patients. NPs’ scope of practice is greater than that of a nurse and closer to that of a physician, although there are some limitations in their practice autonomy. NPs examine patients, order tests, make diagnoses, provide treatment, prescribe medications and perform specific procedures. They focus on whole health and well-being and may be in general practice or a specialty like geriatrics, oncology, cardiology or emergency medicine.

What are some perks of being a nurse practitioner?

Nurse practitioners have a great deal of independence, and some have complete autonomy of practice. Since they’re in high demand, they have many opportunities to choose from in various work environments, flexible schedules and locations across the nation. NPs can care for people of all ages, from babies through seniors, and they can generalize or specialize. NPs are well-compensated for all of their hard work, dedication, training and expertise.

What traits make NPs successful?

Successful NPs show empathy, compassion and interest in their patients. They confidently apply and adapt their knowledge, experience and best practices for each situation. They should have a high standard of ethics and should be excellent communicators. Further, NPs should collaborate well with care teams and engage in constant learning and improvement.

Where do nurse practitioners work?

Most NPs, nearly 70%, work in primary care while others specialize (AANP­). NPs can work in physicians’ offices, urgent care centers, hospitals, emergency departments, skilled nursing facilities, long-term care facilities, hospice centers, home health, telemedicine, retail clinics, academic institutions, correctional facilities, government health and more.

How much do nurse practitioners make, and what is the career outlook for NPs?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for nurse practitioners in 2020 was $111,680. The career outlook for NPs is positive: there were 220,300 nurse practitioners working in the U.S. as of 2020, and that number is expected to grow by a whopping 52% over the next decade (BLS).

How can I become a nurse practitioner?

To become an NP, you must “be a registered nurse (RN), hold a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), complete an NP-focused graduate master’s or doctoral nursing program and successfully pass a national NP board certification exam” (AANP).

Where can I learn more about being an NP?

If you’re interested in learning more about being a nurse practitioner, visit American Association of Nurse Practitioners and Nurse Practitioner Healthcare Foundation.

Physician Assistant (PA)

What do physician assistants do?

Physician assistants examine patients, diagnose illness and injuries, provide treatment, prescribe medications and more. They may serve as a patient’s primary care provider and may practice autonomously or under the supervision of a physician or surgeon. While NPs train under the nursing model (promoting health through a holistic approach), PAs train under the medical model (curing disease and treating symptoms).

What are some perks of being a physician assistant?

PAs have a great deal of freedom in their practice and flexibility in scheduling. They also have many opportunities to choose from in all types of settings and locations. PAs care for patients of all ages and can be in general practice or specialize. Like CRNAs and NPs, PAs can earn great pay for their hard work, dedication, training and expertise.

What traits make physician assistants successful?

Successful physician assistants are flexible, adaptable and self-directed. They show empathy and communicate effectively. Further, they are efficient, proactive and adept at multi-tasking. They draw on their extensive knowledge, training and best practices to treat each patient.

Where do physician assistants work?

While nearly 53% of PAs work in physician’s offices (BLS), PAs also work in hospitals, outpatient care centers, community health centers, nursing homes, home health, government health, telehealth, correctional facilities, treatment centers and more.

How much do PAs make, and what is the career outlook for PAs?

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS), the median annual wage for physician assistants in 2020 was $115,390. The career outlook for PAs is positive: there were 129,400 PAs working in the U.S. as of 2020, and that number is expected to grow by 31% over the next decade (BLS).

How can I become a physician assistant?

To become a PA, you’ll first need a bachelor’s degree and some experience caring for patients, such as working as an EMT, paramedic, nursing assistant or RN. You will need to attend an accredited PA program, most of which offer a master’s degree. After completing a program, you will need to pass a certification exam and apply for a state license. You’ll need to complete continuing education hours and keep your certification up to date to maintain your license.

Where can I learn more about being a physician assistant?

If you’re interested in learning more about being a PA, visit American Academy of PAs, Student Academy of the AAPA, National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants, and Physician Assistant Education Association.

We hope this exploration into the differences between CRNAs, NPs and PAs was helpful. To learn more about exciting opportunities for these APPs across the nation, see our advanced practice provider jobs here.

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