Why didn't I go to nursing school and become a CRNA? After Medscape released its latest salary survey of advanced practice nurses, including CRNA's, that question should hang heavily over any student contemplating a medical career. The survey was completed by over 3,000 APRN's but only 290 were CRNA's so the sample size is very small. But the information that was revealed is still illuminating.
In 2015, CRNA's made an average salary of $176,000. That is up over three percent from last year. That is an income that would not be out of place for a primary care doctor. By contrast anesthesiologists' salaries, though at a much higher level, have remained static year over year, at around $360,000. But it's not just CRNA's that make good money. Other APRN's are also doing quite well. Nurse midwives and nurse practitioners both make over $100,000.
Besides the money, CRNA's also receive generous benefits. According to Medscape, 91% of APRN's receive paid time off. Three fourths get an education allowance and liability coverage. Many are reimbursed for society membership dues and paid family leave.
Going through nursing school and APRN training is much more affordable than medical school. The average medical school debt upon graduation is over $150,000. Some owe a lot more than that. In many parts of the country that is enough to buy a decent house. By contrast, nursing students are in debt for about $30,000 upon graduation. Consequently, only about a third of APRN's still have student loans outstanding.
Finally, what is the best reason to become a CRNA instead of an anesthesiologist? The total lack of accountability. Even though the AANA is fighting hard to allow their members to practice independently without the supervision of physicians, I suspect that many of them secretly prefer being directed by an MD. If any anesthesia complications arise, they can easily point their accusatory fingers at the anesthesiologist and say they are simply following orders from the physician. They are not held responsible far any adversities in care.
So to sum it all up, CRNA's make a very decent salary, with lower student loan debt, receive better benefits, and are not responsible for their actions. Sounds like a pretty decent living to me.