5 Steps To Become a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

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Interested in becoming a certified nurse anesthetist? Just looking at different nursing specialties? Great news! You’ve come to the right place. Nurse anesthetists play a very important role in the medical world, but most people aren’t as familiar with the career path as they are with that of a registered nurse or a nurse practitioner.

Working as a CRNA is very rewarding and can be both challenging and exciting. It’s a specific nursing specialty that does require additional schooling, but it isn’t the same as a general anesthetist or a physician. While your path to becoming a CRNA will start similarly to that of any other registered nurse, it diverges shortly after so you can become a professional in your field.

What are the Educational Requirements to Become a CRNA?

The first steps to becoming a CRNA begin with your schooling. Like all nursing specialties, you’ll need to complete a degree in nursing before you can begin focusing your studies on nursing anesthesia.

Here are the steps to follow to become a CRNA:

1. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

While it’s possible to become a registered nurse without a BSN, it isn’t possible to continue your education without one. 

Your first step to becoming a CRNA is to successfully complete your BSN at any university you deem fit. In some BSN programs, you may be able to start specializing in your studies before you graduate, though this isn’t always the case. It will depend on your school and the types of programs they offer.

2. Get Your License

It should come as no surprise that you’ll need a valid license in order to start your practice. While licensure requirements vary from state to state, you will always be required to pass the NCLEX-RN exam before you can obtain your license. 

Make sure to look carefully into your state’s licensure requirements so that you don’t accidentally miss an important step or you fail to meet the specific requirements. 

3. Gain Experience

With your BSN and license in hand, your next step is to work on gaining experience. It’s recommended that you work in a critical care unit for at least two years in order to gain the necessary experience for most CRNA programs.

Working in the ICU, an ambulatory center, or the emergency room is a good place to start gaining experience and work on meeting entry requirements for a CRNA program.

4. Earn Your Master’s in Nursing

Now it’s time to start really focusing on your specialty. Look for an accredited CRNA program in your state where you can earn your master’s degree (or doctorate if you’re really ambitious). Earning your master’s will usually take anywhere between 24 and 36 months, but the good news is that many programs will allow you to complete at least a portion of the coursework online.

Most programs will also include clinical work where you’re able to start getting involved in anesthesia.

5. Get Certified

Once you’ve finished your CRNA program, it’s time to get certified as a CRNA. This is done by taking the National Certification Examination. Most students successfully pass the exam on their first try, so don’t be too intimidated by having to take another exam.

After passing your certification exam, remember to get your license before starting your practice. You’ll need to renew your certification every four years in order to maintain your license, but aside from that, you’re ready to become a nurse anesthetist!

What is a Career as a Nurse Anesthetist Like?

A career as a nurse anesthetist is very rewarding, but it won’t be easy. You’ll have to go through quite a bit of schooling and renew your license every few years, but the career itself is both well paid and well respected.

What does Nurse Anesthetists Do?

Thanks to recent changes in regulations, most CRNAs are able to practice unsupervised and on their own. Predictably, nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia during medical or dental procedures, but that isn’t all that they do. 

CRNAs assess and monitor a patient’s reaction to anesthesia, work with the patient before the procedure to identify potential allergies and make sure they don’t overdose and educate patients and their families both before and after anesthesia.

Where do CRNAs Work?

CRNAs can be found in any medical facility: hospitals, private practices, dental offices, and outpatient care centers. Many work in operating rooms, emergency rooms, intensive care units, and even cardiac care units.

While there is always the risk of unplanned emergencies, CRNAs typically work Mondays through Fridays anywhere from 6am to 7pm as this is when most surgeries are scheduled. Of course, there will always be unplanned events that could require a CRNA at any moment, including late at night or over the weekend and holidays.

How Much do CRNAs Get Paid?

The salary for CRNAs is one of the highest for nurses. The Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates the average salary for a CRNA is around $195,000 annually, though this can be expected to vary depending on the state, location, and workplace where your choose to practice. Currently, the states with the highest CRNA salary are Alaska, Connecticut, New Jersey, Illinois, and West Virginia.

Holding additional certifications or having more experience can also influence the salary of a CRNA. 

Why are Nurse Anesthetists Important?

Nurse anesthetists play a vital role in the day-to-day functions of most hospitals. While they provide valuable care in metropolitan areas, they are often the only anesthetists in rural areas. CRNAs provide a quality of care for patients that may otherwise be lacking and help ensure safe, responsible use of anesthesia in any medical procedure.

Since CRNAs no longer need physician supervision, they’re able to provide anesthesia care at a lower cost to patients. This is due to the fact that CRNAs, while paid very well, are paid less than general anesthetists. 

Join a Rewarding and Life-Changing Career

All medical careers are rewarding and life-changing and working as a CRNA is no exception. CRNAs are incredibly valuable to the medical community and make undergoing procedures requiring anesthesia less scary for patients. As a CRNA, you’ll work with patients before and after the procedure, ensuring quality care and creating valuable patient-caregiver relations. 

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