For starters, certified nurse anesthetists basically work like anesthesiologists. They ensure the safety of their patients before, during, and after surgical operations.
Because anesthesia is a potent chemical and a single mistake can cost the life of a patient, rigorous training and education are needed to ensure that nurses are fully prepared in handling critical patients.
A CRNA can earn three times more than a single anesthesiologist. They are one of the highest-paid professionals in the health care industry. They get to work alongside respected podiatrists, dentists, surgeons, among others.
On average, a nurse anesthetist program can last between 24 and 36 months- not including the 4 years of BSN training and at least one year of work experience prior. But with the right strategy and perseverance, you can bypass at least 2 years and still become a certified nurse anesthetist.
Curious? Read on.
What is A Nurse Anesthetist?
Let’s dig deeper:
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 team, 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: Complete the Necessary Nursing Prerequisites.
Before you consider entering a nursing school, make sure you already took the required prerequisites. As we all know, nursing programs are getting more competitive. To increase your chances of getting accepted, work hard to achieve above-average grades in nursing-related subjects like math, English, and sciences. If all else fails, you can also consider applying to online Nursing programs.
Step 2: Choose the Right Nursing Program.
Associate’s degree in Nursing is a two-year program that equips you with the basic nursing knowledge and skills. As you will later discover, this step is the key to helping you earn a CRNA degree quickly.
Through this program, you can already work and apply for nurse anesthetist schools after 32 months or less. It is also more affordable as ADN programs are mostly offered in community colleges. The job outlook is almost the same as in a 4-year Nursing program. In fact, employers put more emphasis on NCLEX-RN than on what specific school or program you came from.
Once you’re hired, it will only take a few months before you become eligible for tuition reimbursement. At that point, you will then be allowed to study part-time for your Bachelors in Nursing (BSN).
You can do this while also earning the required one-year experience in critical care areas such as ICU. Depending on your capability, you can complete as much as 6 credits per semester or 24 credits per year.
Take note that a lot of employers prefer nurses with a BSN degree these days. Choosing to enroll in a BSN program instead of an ADN program may mean spending more time studying but the opportunities you’ll have after will make the additional semesters worth it.
Step 3: Become a registered nurse (RN).
After completing your BSN program, you need to take and pass the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN). Once you passed, you can apply for your nursing license.
Step 4: 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 5: 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 6: 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 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 7: Find a nurse anesthetist job
Plenty of opportunities await CRNAs in the US. Along with a high 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.
To give you an idea about this job, here’s a short video you can watch:
How much do nurse anesthetists really make? – Get the latest and the most accurate estimates of the current nurse anesthetist salary.
Where to find nurse anesthetist jobs? – Find out the current job outlook and the hottest opportunities available for nurse anesthetists.
The path towards becoming a nurse anesthetist is full of challenges and sacrifices. But don’t let them stop you from achieving your dreams. Good luck on your journey!
Resources: American Association of Nurse Anesthetists