What Is A Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)?
Nurse anesthetists belong to the category of nurses known as “Advanced Practice Nurses”. This is because they have an advanced skill. In the case of a nurse anesthetist, the advanced skill is the ability to safely and effectively administer anesthesia for surgical, obstetrical and trauma care. They are allowed to administer any kind of anesthetic. These nurses work with:
- Other qualified healthcare professionals
When you become a nurse anesthetist you will be given a higher degree of independence and you will also receive a far higher degree of professional respect due to the advanced nature of your skills. This is a nursing specialty that comes with a large degree of responsibility, but also with many benefits including significant increases in salary and job benefits.
Nature Of The Work/duties
There is not a particularly wide range of tasks that you will be able to perform as a nurse anesthetist as you job will be limited to the very important and highly technical act of providing patients with anesthesia when the need for this arises. In general you will be able to provide the same anesthesia services as an anesthesiologist (MD). This will make you sought after in any situation where any kind of anesthesia is required. In short you could work anywhere. A large number of rural hospitals, for example, rely rather heavily on nurse anesthetists in order to perform essential operations and provide complex care to patients as they cannot necessarily afford to hire a trained anesthesiologist. The settings you work in may vary, but the core job will not.
In terms of employment there are almost endless opportunities for a nurse anesthetist. As a nurse anesthetist you can work in just about any setting where any form of anesthesia will be administered. Here are some employment figures for nurse anesthetists:
- There currently are more than 36,000 nurse anesthetists in the U.S.
- About 45% of nurse anesthetists are men (as compared with 8% men in the nursing profession as a whole).
- CRNAs are the sole providers of anesthesia in approximately two thirds of all rural hospitals in the United States.
- CRNAs are the sole providers in nearly 100% of the rural hospitals in some states across the country.
As you can see this is an occupation that has really come into its own as a separate area of the nursing industry.
Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Requirements
As in any health care profession, being a nurse anesthetist has a number of requirements. These are the step by step requirements that you will need to adhere to be a nurse anesthetist:
- It will take you between 5 and 7 years to qualify as a nurse anesthetist so you need to be prepared to devote the required time to the qualification.
- You will need a bachelor’s degree in nursing which usually requires 3 to 4 years of schooling.
- You also need to have at least 1 year clinical experience in acute nursing care.
- The actual nurse anesthetist program will require at least 2 years and up to 3 years to complete.
- You will then have to sit for the certification exam offered by the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists (CCNA).
As a nurse anesthetist you will find the following personality traits very helpful in your career:
- Counseling/advising skills – counseling and advising will be an important part of your job.
- The ability to be compassionate
- Interpersonal/human relations skills
- The ability to learn and apply institutional policies and procedures
- The ability to adapt to work environment changes
- The ability to be detail oriented – if you are not detail oriented you may miss something that in turn may put your patient’s life in danger.
- The ability to maintain confidentiality at all times
- A good-spirited nature
- A helpful disposition
- Great communication skills
- A love for working with people – you will be in a position where you will have to work with many different people on a daily basis.
Unlike many other nursing specialties, to become a nurse anesthetist you have to attend additional training and pass an accredited certification program. To get into a program like this you have to meet the following requirements:
- You must be a currently-licensed RN
- You must have a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) (or other appropriate baccalaureate degree)
- You must have at least one year of experience in an acute care setting
There is no licensure, per se, to be a nurse anesthetist, but there is a certification procedure that you will have to go through. You will:
- Need your RN degree firstly
- You will then need to complete a master’s degree in CRNA
- Then you will have to pass the national certification exam
This will earn you certification as a nurse anesthetist, but you need to remember that you are required to keep your certification up to date. This means renewing your certificate every few years and providing proof of continuing education. There may be slight differences from state to state, but generally speaking CRNAs must obtain a minimum of 40 hours of continuing education every two years. This is necessary in order to continue practicing in your capacity as a CRNA.
How To Become A Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
Training, Advancement And Other Qualifications
To become a nurse anesthetist you will have to complete a certification program known as a CRNA. This will culminate in a master’s degree and can take as long as 3 years (although there are some programs that will only take 2 year). Once you have completed the CRNA program you will have to pass an examination before you can receive certification. The exam is known as the national certification exam. Remember that before you can enter into a CRNA program you have to already be a licensed RN. This means that you need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree in nursing before you can continue. There are also experience requirements. In other words you need have worked the required number of hours in the required type of setting before you are eligible to enter a program.
Source An Accredited Education Program
The program that you enroll in to be a nursing anesthetist must be accredited. If it is not accredited:
- You will waste your time: you will have to complete another program that is accredited from scratch which will double the time that you spend studying.
- You will waste your money: this is because you will effectively be paying for two programs instead of one.
The best place to look for an accredited nurse anesthetist program is on the website of your state board of nursing. This is a resource that you can be guaranteed will provide you with the best and most reliable information possible about how to go about earning your nurse anesthetist qualification in your particular state. The school itself should also be open about this information.
Earn Your Associate’s Degree
Earning your associate’s degree is a good starting point when becoming a nurse anesthetist, but ultimately you will need to hold a master’s degree if you are to be properly certified and licensed as a in this particular area of nursing specialization. Although it is possible to be an RN with just an associate’s degree you, if at some point during your RN career decide that you want to specialize in anesthesia, will have to go back to school and complete your qualification so that you are an RN that holds a master’s degree in nursing. This will take anything between 2 and 4 years, depending on the level of education that you have before you enroll in the master’s degree program. Bridging courses are available to make things a little easier for you.
Obtain Your Licensure
The only official licensure that you need in order to be a nurse anesthetist is your RN licensure. This you can earn in the following way:
- Enroll in an RN training program. This will take you two to four years to complete. Make sure it is accredited.
- Complete your program and apply for licensure from your state board of nursing.
- Once your state board has confirmed that you are eligible for licensing, you will be able to make an exam date to write the NCLEX-RN examination through the administering body, Pearson Vue.
- Once you have passed the exam you need to present your results to the state board of nursing in order to complete the licensure process.
- Note: in some cases you may be required to pass additional health and background checks.
Online/Distance Education Programs
Because of the nature of the training involved, and because you are already a qualified RN, there are ways to do your nurse anesthetist qualification online. Here are three schools that offer online qualifications in this regard:
- Oakland University: Nurse Anesthesia: Certificate, Doctorate, Masters
- Virginia Commonwealth University: Health Related Sciences, PhD: Doctorate
- Samuel Merritt University: MSN: Masters
There are a number of advantages to studying online, such as the fact that you can work at your own pace and you do not have to quit you current job. However this is not for everyone as it does require a high level of self-motivation. In addition you will lose out on the valuable classroom experience that can so helpful in facilitating the learning process and assisting you to learn at a faster rate.
Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Job Outlook
Because nurse anesthetists (CRNA) are part of the group of nursing professionals known as advanced nursing practitioners, there are a number of great opportunities available for them. The job outlook for nurses in this domain is very strong and will remain strong for the predictable future. CRNAs provide affordable, high quality health care that can help hospitals, clinics and other facilities maintain health care costs. Anesthesiologists charge far higher rates. In addition nurse anesthetists are more common in the job market than anesthesiologists. This essentially means that there is a larger supply of nurse anesthetist to draw from than there is of anesthesiologists, making this a very stable career for you to work in. There will always be a health care institute somewhere that requires a nurse anesthetist in order to perform routine operations.
Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) Earnings
Nurse anesthetists earn fairly decent salaries of between $78,562 and $168,321. There are, however, a number of factors that play a role in exactly how much you will earn as a nurse anesthetist. These factors are:
- Years of experience
- Job description
- Work setting
- Geographic location
On average female nurse anesthetists earn around $103,214 to $150,119, while male nurse anesthetists can expect to earn around $119,040 to $158,869.
Education plays an important role. The level of education you have will affect your salary:
– Master of Science in Nursing (MSN): $91,089 – $162,920
– Bachelor’s Degree: $60,820 – $172,182
– Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Anesthesia: $92,738 – $196,656
– Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN): $76,026 – $167,701
– Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), Nurse Anesthesia: $110,468 – $168,917
We can conclude that this is a line of work that is going to require a lot of effort to get into. This is not something that you will be able to do quickly. In addition becoming a nurse anesthetist requires commitment as you will not be able to easily change your mind, at least financially speaking and in terms of time, once you have started your training in this regard. Due to the high pay involved and the fact that you will be highly sought after in a number of settings, this is one of the better nursing specialties to choose once you have your RN qualification.