CRNAs vs. Anesthesiologists: What’s the Difference?

CRNAs and anesthesiologists are critical positions in an anesthesia care team; what’s the difference between these positions? We’ll break down how CRNAs and anesthesiologists differ, from education to liability.

Who Is a CRNA?

A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who has met advanced educational and clinical practice requirements. They have many responsibilities as part of the anesthesia team, including administering anesthesia, educating patients before and after a procedure, and identifying possible risks for patients undergoing anesthesia.

Who Is an Anesthesiologist?

An anesthesiologist is a CRNA’s direct superior and works with surgeons to assess the patient, create an anesthesia treatment plan, and administer the anesthesia. They help patients who require general, regional, monitored, or local anesthesia for a procedure. During surgeries requiring anesthesia, the anesthesiologist will closely monitor the condition of the patient with the care team (including CRNAs).

How Are the Roles Different?

Now, we can explore the differences between CRNAs and anesthesiologists. The primary distinctions between the two professions are education and training, responsibilities, and liability.


CRNAs and anesthesiologists take different educational paths to get to their positions. A CRNA must first attain a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) before attaining a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DNAP) degree. The track to becoming a CRNA generally takes 7–10 years, between schooling, the required clinical nursing experience, and the graduate nursing program.

Anesthesiologists require roughly 12 years of schooling, including getting a bachelor’s degree in one of the sciences, then four years of medical school, and another four years of residency before becoming state-licensed.


While an anesthesiologist and a CRNA’s duties overlap, they have different responsibilities. The anesthesiologist has the final say on anesthesia treatment plans and is typically present at surgeries to monitor patients. CRNAs have more responsibilities in pre and post-surgery anesthesia treatment plans, as well as educating and monitoring patients. They can also assist in administering anesthesia.


The anesthesiologist is primarily responsible for anesthesia treatment plans for patients. If something goes wrong with the anesthesia, they’ll likely be held liable. CRNAs aren’t immune to malpractice claims; in fact, they’re more liable in claims stemming from errors in administering epidural or negligent care before or after surgery. Claims regarding the effectiveness of anesthesia or side effects generally target anesthesiologists.

Find CRNA Malpractice Coverage With Baxter & Associates

We hope our explainer has helped you understand the key distinctions between CRNA and anesthesiologists. While not as liable, CRNAs still need CRNA malpractice insurance to protect themselves against claims of negligence and errors. If you’re a CRNA needing malpractice insurance, contact Baxter & Associates for help finding the ideal policy.