Nurse Anesthetist

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist is one of the four major advanced practice areas for nurses. Although requirements for becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist vary by state, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are generally Registered Nurses who hold both a Master’s Degree in Nursing, and certification as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist from an approved national certifying body, such as the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists’ (AANA) or the National Boards of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists(NBCRNA).

All nurse anesthesia programs require a bachelor’s degree, an RN license and a minimum of one year experience as a nurse in an intensive care unit. Upon completion of the program they must pass the national certifying exam in order to practice as a nurse anesthetist.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists administer care in a variety of settings from medical centers, to community hospitals, pain clinics, dentist offices, or physicians’ offices to name a few. Their practice includes, but is not limited to, general, and local anesthesia, sedation, epidural, spinal, or peripheral nerve blocks. Depending on the state in which a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist practices, there is a varying degree of supervision or medical direction required by a physician or dentist. It can vary from the requirement of the physician providing in-person direction to simply requiring the consent of a supervising physician.  In some states (15 to date) nurse anesthetists practice without supervision, you can check the AANA website for more information at www.aana.com. Common roles of the nurse anesthetist may include caring for patients before and after surgery, providing pain control during childbirth, overseeing conscious sedation, teaching students and conducting research. Nurse anesthetists must possess advanced assessment skills and be able to work directly with other members of the patient care team to provide the best possible outcome.

Nurse Anesthetist Salary

CRNAs will find a variety of career opportunities due to high demand and career flexibility. As the highest-paying advanced nursing specialty, CRNAs hold a significant level of autonomy. The median annual salary of about $148,000, depending on location, experience, and practice setting.. Additionally, the current nursing shortage has prompted many hospitals to offer increased salaries to advanced practice nurses in an effort to attract more nurses with specialty expertise.  It is important to note that 65% of anesthetics delivered in the United States today are provided by CRNAs.

CRNAs can practice in all 50 states, and must complete significant training before graduation. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, CRNAs will complete more than 2,500 clinical hours and administer more than 800 anesthetics before graduation. Nurse anesthetists must meet specific training criteria, including 24 to 36 months of graduate training in an accredited program, possess at least one year of background in acute care nursing (such as an ICU), and have a passing score on the national certification exam. There are more than 100 nurse anesthetist programs in the United States.

Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Education Programs

Curriculum and Core Classes

CRNAs can practice in all 50 states and require significant training before graduation. As of March 2011, there were 111 nurse anesthetist programs in the U.S. Programs are often competitive with a high number of applicants for a select number of openings. Student selection criteria is based on academic transcripts, references and critical care experience. Face-to-face interviews may also be conducted and the student’s intelligence, problem solving abilities, critical thinking and commitment to the profession will be evaluated before during the admissions process.

Curriculum requirements are formulated to build a scientific, clinical and professional foundation for safe practice. Prerequisite work includes pharmacology of anesthetic drugs and adjuvant drugs plus additional focus on chemistry and biochemistry. Anatomy, physiology and pathophysiology studies are also required. Students will learn basic and advanced principles of anesthesia practices that go beyond the physical aspects including physics, equipment management, technology, pain management, research and clinical correlation.

The majority of accredited CRNA programs exceed the minimum requirements as set by the Council on Accreditation. Many students also participate in additional studies related to research, statistics and scientific inquiry.

Clinical experiences provide students with supervised real-life experience within the field of anesthesia. During this time, students learn techniques, test theories and apply classroom knowledge to clinical problems. Caring for all types of patients of all ages broadens experience and allows students to provide anesthesia for medical, surgical, obstetrical, dental and pediatric interventions. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), CRNAs will complete more than 2,500 clinical hours and administer more than 800 anesthetics before graduation.

Program Length

Most programs range between 24 and 36 months in length and some may require students to complete a master’s degree before applying to the program. Part-time study is not usually available for CRNA programs given the rigorous training and focus needed to complete the courses. Applications should be submitted a year before the candidate’s desired enrollment date.

In addition to graduation from an accredited master’s or higher degree program, students will need to pass the certification exam administered by the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists to become a CRNA. The exam will test comprehension of assessment and diagnosis techniques, pharmacology, theory and more.

Before applying to a specific program, prospective students can inquire about the school’s pass/fail rate on the national certification exam. Many schools will have this information posted on their website and will disclose what percentage passed on the first or second attempt.