Nurse Anesthetist vs Anesthesiologist: A Comparison

Nurse Anesthetist

When undergoing surgery or other medical procedures requiring anesthesia, most patients don’t give much thought to the medical professional who will be administering their anesthesia. However, there are important differences between nurse anesthetists (also known as CRNAs) and anesthesiologists that are useful to understand.

Nurse anesthetists and anesthesiologists work closely together but have different levels of education and areas of focus. Below we provide an overview of both roles.

Education and Training of Nurse Anesthetist vs Anesthesiologist

Nurse anesthetists and anesthesiologists have very different training backgrounds, which lead to different clinical scopes. Nurse anesthetists focus narrowly on anesthesia delivery, while anesthesiologists have an expansive medical education encompassing surgical planning, procedure support, and post-operative care:

Nurse Anesthetists

  • Typically have a master’s degree in nursing along with graduate-level training specifically in anesthesia administration.
  • Curriculum focuses on hands-on experience delivering anesthesia safely for a variety of procedures
  • Must be licensed as advanced practice nurses in their state to practice.


  • Complete full medical school and 4 additional years of medical residency in anesthesiology
  • Training covers the entire perioperative process – pre-operation assessment, providing anesthesia during surgery, and post-operation pain management
  • Focus is on deep clinical knowledge of anesthesia delivery and manual operation


Types of Procedures for Nurse Anesthetists and Anesthesiologists

Nurse anesthetists commonly provide anesthesia for lower-risk procedures like:

  • Colonoscopies
  • Arthroscopic surgery
  • Labor and delivery

Anesthesiologists more often handle anesthesia for complex surgeries like:

  • Heart surgery
  • Transplant operations
  • Neurosurgery


Nurse anesthetists typically work in smaller community hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, and medical offices. Meanwhile, anesthesiologists usually work in university hospitals, large regional medical centers, and intensive care units.

Cost for Healthcare Organizations

Nurse anesthetist services cost 40-50% less than anesthesiologists for healthcare facilities. However, some utilize anesthesiologists for more complex cases where advanced medical training is warranted.

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