The pandemic shifted the nursing industry and forever changed how nurses do their jobs. Travel nursing boomed during the pandemic’s peak and isn’t showing any signs of slowing down. As a result, nurses of all specialties are more open to traveling instead of having a single job in one location. If you’re a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) and love to travel, consider a career as a travel CRNA. Traveling CRNAs may see benefits such as a higher salary, fewer work days per year, enjoying new locations and more.
What is a CRNA and Their Role in Healthcare?
CRNAs, or certified registered nurse anesthetists, are advanced practice nurses (APRNs) with critical care experience and specialized training in administering anesthesia to patients during surgical procedures. They’re generally the highest-paid APRNs, with a healthy average salary of $190,059 annually, and travel nurse anesthetists often earn much more.
Nurses who continue their education and become CRNAs find numerous opportunities and enjoy additional perks. Aside from the generous salary, some of the many reasons this nursing specialty has become so popular in the nursing profession include:
- Autonomy: CRNAs experience a high level of independence that many other types of nurses don’t. Their scope of practice allows them the freedom to decide the best anesthetic to use for each patient they treat. Some CRNAs can practice completely independent of physician oversight, based on legislation in their practice state.
- Regular working hours: Depending on where a CRNA works, they may not be subject to the typical 12-hour shifts and weekend requirements many nurses work.
- Respect: Becoming a CRNA is a highly respected profession, not only because of the rigorous schooling requirements but also because of the nature of the job itself.
Where Do CRNAs Work?
The job outlook for CRNAs is projected to grow by 13% between 2020 and 2030 due to ever-increasing healthcare demands and an aging population. CRNAs have many work opportunities spanning various specialties and practice locations where patients need anesthesia, including:
- Rural or urban: Work locations for CRNAs aren’t limited by population. CRNAs have enough training and skills to work in large urban centers with other providers or in rural areas that may only have a solo anesthesia provider.
- Hospitals: Providing anesthesia in a hospital setting is one of the main areas CRNAs practice due to anesthetic needs for surgery and other procedures.
- Outpatient centers: Practice locations outside the hospital include infusion clinics, outpatient surgery centers, plastic surgery facilities, and dental offices.
Depending on the practice location, some CRNAs may need to be on call to provide care on an “as needed” basis. For instance, a CRNA who works with a large team of other anesthesia providers may be required to rotate being on call. On the other hand, a CRNA who is the only anesthesia provider in a rural location may work solely on an on-call basis.
CRNAs Require Intense Education
The path to becoming a CRNA isn’t easy, but it’s well worth it. CRNAs complete an intense education program spanning 24 to 51 months, depending on the school. Due to the high pay and autonomy, many critical care nurses gravitate toward advancing their education to become CRNAs. They benefit from a head start because admittance into a CRNA program requires critical care experience. Learn more about the process in our CRNA certification guide.
Minimum requirements to apply to a CRNA program include:
- A baccalaureate degree or higher in nursing or another appropriate major
- A minimum of one year of experience in a critical care setting
- An unrestricted license to practice in the United States or its territories as a registered nurse or APRN
Unlike other advanced practice nursing specialties, CRNAs also must earn a doctoral degree as entry to practice. It takes an average of 7 to 8.5 years to satisfy both the experience and educational requirements to become a CRNA.
Traveling as a CRNA
Working as a travel CRNA is a great career move to see the world and get exposure to different fields within anesthesia. Top reasons CRNAs might consider traveling as a career include:
- Lifestyle: Some CRNAs prefer variety in their work, so traveling offers the perfect amount of diversity between different travel contracts. An added bonus is the ability to see other parts of the country during your time off.
- Flexibility: As a traveling CRNA, you can take jobs on your terms. If you want to take summers off, you can do that. The flexibility of traveling CRNA work is hard to beat compared to regular staff positions.
- Financial: Increased income could help you pay off student loans and other debts faster. Paying off debts and increasing their overall salary allows CRNAs to develop financial security.
- Professional development: Traveling and working in different locations provides the opportunity to grow professionally. Working as a travel CRNA allows you to learn new skills that help you advance your career.
- Networking: The ability to meet and network with different people you encounter on travel assignments is invaluable. Networking allows you to develop meaningful relationships on the road and discover other opportunities down the road.
Travel Nurse Anesthetist Salary
Travel CRNA pay averaged $5,854 per week during the first week of August 2022 on Vivian Health. The states with the largest average travel CRNA salaries were Missouri at $7,200 per week, followed by Nebraska at $5,982 and California at $5,500.
Things to Consider Before Becoming a Travel CRNA
- Experience: CRNAs should have solid work experience before considering a travel assignment. Travelers are expected “to hit the ground running” when on assignments, so having previous work experience is critical.
- Agency: Travel CRNAs have various agencies to choose from when taking assignments, and each agency offers something different. One of the first things to consider is what travel agency works with your particular needs. You may choose an agency for the types of assignments they specialize in or if they offer medical benefits or other agency-specific perks.
- Recruiter: While working with an agency, it assigns you to a specific recruiter who works with you to help you get everything you need to start traveling, such as finding assignments, negotiating terms with travel employers and more. Make sure you find the right fit with both the agency and recruiter.
- Contracts: Travelers should review each travel contract carefully and be prepared to negotiate terms if necessary. Negotiable terms to consider include pay, housing, contract length, and other additional items like rental cars.
- Housing: Some agencies offer housing or travel housing stipends, depending on the contract. Opting for a housing stipend means the traveler will be responsible for finding their own housing while on contract, which may or may not be within the allotted stipend amount. Another thing to consider with housing is how much you’ll have to pack from location to location. When accepting housing from an agency, questions include asking if the accommodations are not only furnished but come with incidentals like dishes.
- Licensing/credentialing: Travel CRNAs must go through the credentialing process for each agency they work with. In addition, they need a new license for each new state. However, if your primary state of residence is part of the Nurse Licensure Compact (NLC) and you hold a multistate license that allows you to practice in other compact states. If a state isn’t part of the NLC, the time it takes to get a new license varies. Travelers must consider all the necessary paperwork if they want to work with more than one agency and in multiple states.
- Availability of assignments: Travelers should be prepared for lapses in assignments during certain times of the year or assignments in less than desirable locations. One way to avoid lapses and have consistent CRNA jobs while traveling is to work with more than one agency. When one agency has a slow season in terms of assignments, another may have desirable travel assignments available. Vivian works with multiple agencies, making it easy for you to work with as many agencies as you’d like.
- Adaptability: It takes to get used to traveling to a new facility every few months. By the time you’ve adapted to how they do things at one facility, it’s time to pack up and leave for another. Traveling as a CRNA may not be the best option if you like stability and a regular routine.
Take the First Step to Become a Travel CRNA
If you’re interested in pursuing a career in traveling as a CRNA, the first step is to look for an agency that aligns with your needs as a traveler. Once you find an agency that’s a great fit for your needs, you can begin the adventure of a lifetime. If you want to start traveling but don’t know where to begin looking for a position, check out our travel CRNA jobs on Vivian Health and let us help you find your ideal job with one universal profile.