Combining the undergraduate nursing education, acute care experience, and specialized nurse anesthesia training, most students spend about 7 to 10 years working to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA).
Becoming a Nurse Anesthetist
Bachelor of Science in Nursing
Before applying to an advanced practice nurse anesthesia program, students need a 4-year bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN). Bachelor programs should be accredited by either the National League for Nursing or the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education. An aspiring nurse anesthetist should take a statistics class as an undergraduate. They should keep a high GPA, especially in the sciences, since a minimum 3.4 is needed to be competitive at some NA schools. After receiving their bachelor’s degree, most students get registered with the state as an RN.
Intensive Care Experience
After getting their bachelor’s in nursing, prospective nurse anesthetists must get a year of experience in an ICU or other acute care setting. Many nurse anesthesia programs prefer applicants with 2 years of such experience. Ideally, the work should expose participants to a comprehensive mix of surgical, medical, cardiac, neuro, and pediatric intensive care to log on their graduate school resumes.
Nurse Anesthesia School
Some students enter an NA specialty program immediately after their undergraduate and acute care training, commonly earning a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) with a concentration in Nurse Anesthesia. Others complete a basic MSN first, and then go on to a post-master’s NA certificate program. Still others seek NA training via a doctorate like the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). These programs may integrate DNP, nurse practitioner, and nurse anesthesia training all in a single package. In any case, programs should be accredited by the Council on Accreditation Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs.
Nurse Anesthesia programs take 2 to 3 years to prepare students for national board certification as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). They consist of a didactic component plus a clinical practicum with rotations exposing students to anesthesia care in a wide range of settings. To get into a nursing anesthesia program, nurses usually need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), an unrestricted RN license, a year of acute care work experience, and recent GRE scores.
Professional Certification and Licensure
Students need RN licensure before they go to graduate school for nurse anesthesia. Some programs will accept students who are at least eligible for RN licensure if they do not have a current license. The best CRNA programs also require applicants to hold current certification as a Critical Care Registered Nurse (CCRN) before they get started. Nurse anesthesia specialty programs should prepare students to take the national CRNA certification examination and to get a state license to practice. Post-master’s certificates are also available in subspecialties like obstetrics, neurosurgery, or pain management.