CRNA v. Anesthesiologist

My career goal is the latter, (duh, this is a preMED site) but I was hoping to get some education from some of you regarding the differences in responsibilities for each. Is there much difference?

(If the answer to this is an obvious one, please excuse my ignorance in advance!)

I might not be the best person to advise on this, but I have done a lot of research on CRNA’s and I have job shadowed two friends who are happily working as CRNA’s. Like you, I also wish to become an anesthesiologist (at least that is my not-totally-informed pre-med aspiration), but before I made the commitment to med school I thought it only prudent to explore all the options. This is a pre-med forum, indeed, but I think part of the process can be, maybe should be, considering all the angles so you can rest easy and focus, knowing you have honestly ruled out other reasonable options.

CRNA’s are not the same as doctors, of course, but they do provide anesthesia in a variety of settings. In bigger hospital’s they usually work under the supervision of an MD, but in smaller rural hospitals, they usually work autonomously. The pay is pretty good - more on average than a family doc or pediatrician. My two CRNA friends have their own practice and make embarrassingly sizable salaries – enough to (understandably) annoy many anesthesiologists. They are on the high end of the scale though. I think the average is around 160 K base, with great hours and lots of vacation. Still good.

The drawbacks: well…your not a doctor; you have to go to nursing school; and then work for a minimum year or two as a nurse in ICU; then apply to CRNA school, which is very competitive, and you may wait 5 or 6 years to get in when you could have just gone to med school and been done in almost the same time. But then again, you wouldn’t have the debt and you would be supporting yourself the whole time. But there is no guarantee you will get into med school either. CRNA School is about 30 months, so in theory, if it goes perfectly, you could be done in 3-4 years after your bachelors. It’s not a bad deal really.

I considered it, but decided I didn’t want to go to nursing school. I looked into the nursing curriculum and decided it’s too fluffy for me – like social science. I want to go to medical school. I want to be a doctor. I also think I will enjoy the process of becoming a doctor (I know that probably sounds naive to those who have already done it). In addition I don’t have kids or too many financial considerations. All I have to do is be a student for a while. If my situation was different the CRNA route would make more sense, but there is no reason for me not to go all the way – besides I might find a specialty I like more than anesthesia. There are endless things to consider, I guess. The cost of not making it, having a back up, etc.

Anyway, I’m probably not providing any more information than you can easily find yourself - just some thoughts. Hopefully you will get some better advice form a real anesthesiologist, or someone in med school. One thing I noticed while asking around – I never heard of a CRNA who regretted their career choice. I have a feeling, however, that most CRNA’s have come from highly motivated nurses, rather than aspiring docs who compromised. Maybe not.

I guess you were only asking about the differnces, not considering CRNA. Sorry about that.

One major diff. is crna’s cant prescribe drugs for use outside the hospital. My friends tell me they have a very specific, procedure oriented scope of practice; more narrow than an MD.

Thanks, Roo!

I had done some Googling and gotten alot of the same info that you shared with me, but came to same conclusion as you have. I’m unmarried, no kids and not in any (real) hurry to end my reign as a perpetual student (lol) and I’m not at ALL interested in compromising.

I want to be a doctor. It’s just that the 4-year residency AFTER 4 years of med school makes me squirm sometimes.

Thanks for your response. :0)