Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) have a choice when they begin their careers—get a full-time position at a facility or become an independent contractor. But what are the pros and cons of being an independent CRNA contractor? Working full-time and as a contractor can have different impacts on your work-life balance and your pay. We discuss the pros and cons of working as a CRNA contractor in our helpful guide below.
What Is an Independent CRNA Contractor?
CRNAs face many different challenges on the job, but the first is to decide which is a better fit for your life—working full-time or as an independent contractor. First, what does it mean to be an independent CRNA contractor? Basically, there are two types of nurses—W-2 and 1099 nurse contractors. A full-time W-2 nurse is employed by a healthcare facility and files their tax income with a W-2 form.
According to the IRS, a 1099 independent nurse identifies as a small business—they pick and choose the contracts they agree to but don’t have a full-time employer. So, a 1099 CRNA nurse can travel nationwide to many different facilities and locations each year instead of just one facility.
Advantages of Working as an Independent CRNA Contractor
Choosing whether to be a W-2 or 1099 CRNA is a significant career decision. Below, we’ll discuss the pros and cons of becoming an independent CRNA contractor so you can weigh both sides and make an informed decision.
Freedom of Job Choice
As the name suggests, being an independent CRNA contractor affords much more freedom than a standard CRNA. As independent contractors, CRNAs can take on the contracts they desire and choose where they want to work and what type of work they’d like to do.
CRNA contractors can choose their location and work hours and are not beholden to changing shift schedules at facilities and staffing shortages. And if a CRNA gets tired of a facility and wants to try somewhere new, they can move on to somewhere across the country if desired.
Perhaps the most difficult part of being a CRNA and a nurse is balancing time devoted to work and personal time. With so many facilities around the country suffering from nursing and staffing shortages, many CRNAs and RNs are working longer, more intense hours, which takes up a larger portion of their personal lives.
Independent CRNA contractors aren’t immune to feeling an imbalanced work and personal life, but they’re given much more flexibility and power to change the balance if needed. 1099 CRNAs can negotiate their hours and move to a different facility at the end of their contract instead of feeling tied down to one place.
One of the primary reasons that many CRNAs consider becoming a 1099 contractor is that it gives them more power in negotiating their pay. Typically, a 1099 nurse gets paid roughly 10-20 percent more than a regular W-2 nurse, but much of that is offset by costs a W-2 nurse doesn’t worry about—which we’ll discuss later.
But since independent CRNA contractors choose their contracts, they have many more options and can find a facility that’s in greater demand and is willing to pay more. An independent CRNA has much greater earning potential than a standard CRNA—at least at first.
Later, we’ll discuss that independent CRNAs have a significantly higher tax burden, but they can still use many tax deductions to ease that burden. As an independent contractor, a CRNA is considered a small business—and not just a person—in the eyes of the IRS.
As a small business, an independent CRNA can file for many more tax deductions than they would normally be able to, as there are many provisions to help entrepreneurs and small business owners in the tax code. Plus, 1099 CRNAs can write off many of the added expenses that come with being independent, including:
- Travel expenses
- Educations expenses
- Job supplies
One of many things that independent CRNAs rave about their unique status is that it offers the chance to cultivate a lot of experience. As a 1099 contractor, CRNAs can try different locations and facilities across the country until they find something that best fits them.
The added experience of working at multiple facilities in a short time frame helps CRNAs better develop their skill set towards their dream job and allows them to meet more people in the industry and develop references. The independent contractor role is ideal for those who wish to try everything before landing in one spot.
It Can Turn Into a Full-Time Job
There’s always the option for independent CRNAs to change their mind and switch when they desire. If a 1099 CRNA starts a job at a facility they enjoy with a staff they build strong connections with, they can apply to work there full-time.
Many independent CRNAs eventually choose one place to settle down with for greater stability, but as a 1099 contractor, they can take the job for a test drive before deciding to stay long-term.
Disadvantages of Working as an Independent CRNA Contractor
Below we’ll explore some of the disadvantages of working as a CRNA contractor.
Greater Tax Burden
The primary downside to operating as a 1099 CRNA contractor is the taxes. Since an independent CRNA doesn’t have a permanent employer, they’re responsible for withdrawing their share of FICA from their income. Instead of taking the income taxes from the paycheck as employers do, independent contractors typically have to pay one large sum at the end of the year.
But unlike full-time employees, CRNA 1099 contractors can take advantage of tax deductions, like travel expenses, insurance, and office supplies.
No Employer Benefits
The other downside to not having a permanent employer is that you wouldn’t get employer-owned benefits as a 1099 CRNA. While an independent CRNA can apply for benefits from certain healthcare organizations that provide perks to 1099 contractors, they’re typically not as robust as those from an employer.
Independent CRNAs are responsible for getting their insurance and don’t receive perks like a paid vacation from employers. They may find benefits that are just as good, but they’ll have to do the legwork themselves to find equal or better benefits.
Another disadvantage to being independent is that CRNAs are responsible for securing their malpractice insurance. Since they’re independent, they’re liable for malpractice claims instead of being covered by the facility’s insurance.
Obtaining nurse anesthetist malpractice insurance is critical to working in healthcare, as it protects professionals from damaging liability lawsuits that could cost thousands of dollars. While independent CRNAs benefit from choosing their insurance, it typically costs more as an individual than it would join a group malpractice insurance plan for a healthcare facility, as other CRNAs do.
There are pros and cons of being a nurse anesthetist whether you’re full-time or a contractor. We hope our explainer has enlightened those who want to learn more about the independent CRNA experience, especially if you’re considering moonlighting as a nurse or CRNA. If you’re a 1099 CRNA contractor and need malpractice insurance, contact our helpful staff to get started and find the right coverage for you.
Explore our blogs to learn more about CRNA as a profession and contact us to get malpractice insurance quotes.