How to Become a Certified Nurse Anesthetist


Certified registered nurse anesthetists or CRNAs are one of the most in-demand and highest-paid workers in the health care industry. They are a type of advanced practice nurses (APN) who administer anesthesia during a surgical procedure.

Although anesthesiologists are usually paid 2 or 3 times higher than CRNAs, recent employment trends have been in favor of the latter. This is because hiring a single CRNA instead of a group of anesthesiologists is one of the most cost-effective measures a hospital can implement. For this reason, CRNAs have enjoyed the benefits of having independent roles in addition to a six-figure income.

What is A Nurse Anesthetist?

A nurse anesthetist is a licensed nurse who went through a rigorous educational process to earn specialized skills in anesthesiology. The profession is older than most people think.

During the Civil War, nurses already began using anesthesia to lessen the pain of wounded soldiers. Since then, nurse anesthetists have slowly developed a highly respected field in health care.

Today, almost 65% of anesthetics in the US are administered by certified nurse anesthetists.

Nurse Anesthetist Requirements

The journey towards becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist starts with a passion to serve others. Yes, it’s a lucrative career, but basing your career decision on money alone can get you nowhere.

As early as high school, you must already assess yourself whether or not a career in health care is right for you. Your performance in science subjects such as biology and physiology matters a lot at this point. It will give you an idea of how interested you are in pursuing a nursing degree.

Once you survive nursing school, things will slowly fall into the right places. During this time, you will gradually develop the clinical and “people” skills you need to succeed in the profession.

Before choosing among nurse anesthetist programs, you must also remember how demanding the profession can be. In other words, you must be comfortable working alone or with a tea, staying in your job for long hours, and dealing with your patients’ individual needs before, during or even after administering the anesthesia.

How to Become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

Now that you have an idea of what nurse anesthetists actually do, it’s time to learn the step-by-step process of becoming a CRNA.

Step 1: Become a registered nurse (RN)

Almost all educational institutions require candidates to have a nursing license before entering any nurse anesthetist programs. For this reason, one must enroll in a BSN program and get the best learning experience that the school can provide. This is a crucial step if you want to pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) required by most US states.

Step 2: Get at least one year of acute care experience

Nurse anesthesia programs also require at least one year of clinical experience in addition to a nursing license. Most schools prefer a working experience from acute care settings such as emergency rooms (ER) and intensive care units (ICU). Such exposure provides new nurses with the core clinical skills needed to succeed in nurse anesthetist schools.

Step 3: Complete an accredited nurse anesthetist program

Most certified nurse anesthetist programs offered by accredited schools usually take 2 to 3 years to complete. This is an in-depth clinical training with very strict requirements.

For example, students are not allowed to take part-time jobs as the educational requirements are very demanding. Online nursing programs are also not allowed given the scope of training needed to earn a Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia.

Step 4:  Pass the national certification examination for CRNAs

After completing your master’s degree (MSN), you are then required to take a national certification exam. It’s conducted several times in a year and measures the knowledge, skills, and attitude you have developed during the course of the nurse anesthetist program. Upon passing, you will finally earn the title CRNA or certified registered nurse anesthetist.

Step 5: Find a nurse anesthetist job

Plenty of opportunities await CRNAs in the US. Along with a six-figure income is the chance to work in a variety of health care settings. These may range from plastic surgeon’s offices and clinics to hospitals and dental centers.

See Also: How to Choose the Best Nurse Anesthetist Programs