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How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist

What Does a Nurse Anesthetist Do?

nurse anesthetist with patient

Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) use their advanced training in pain management to relieve suffering and discomfort due to surgery, trauma, childbirth and illness. After administering anesthetic, they remain at the patient’s side, providing support and adjusting the dosage as needed. CRNAs also care for people before and after surgery and play an important role in ensuring patient safety.

Nurses have been providing anesthesia care since the Civil War. Today, CRNAs administer 33 million anesthetics annually in the United States. In addition to working in operating rooms, these professionals serve as pain management specialists, first responders and coordinators of emergency care. Depending on state law, CRNAs either practice independently or in conjunction with an anesthesiologist, surgeon, dentist or podiatrist. Nurse anesthetists are sometimes incorrectly called nurse anesthesiologists; the correct term for a nurse practicing in the field is nurse anesthetist.

Nurse anesthetists care for a wide variety of patients, from children to expectant mothers to senior citizens. They begin each case by conducting a preoperative interview with the patient to determine the most appropriate type of anesthesia. Before a procedure, they help patients understand what to expect, answer questions and offer personal support. The care they provide helps to relieve the anxiety associated with surgery and can make an enormous difference in the patient’s experience.

The work of CRNAs has significant social benefits. Nurses are responsible for the vast majority of anesthesiology care in rural areas and other places experiencing a critical shortage of health care professionals. Their assistance allows smaller hospitals to offer comprehensive services close to home, including surgery, obstetrics and trauma care.

Anesthesiology is among the most challenging and rewarding of the nursing specialties. These professionals find great satisfaction in relieving patients’ discomfort and anxiety. They are also proud of the crucial role they play on surgical, emergency response and palliative care teams.

Workplace Details

CRNAs practice in almost every health care setting where anesthesia is needed, including hospitals, outpatient surgery centers and government and public health facilities. They can also be found in the offices of surgeons, dentists, ophthalmologists, palliative care specialists and podiatrists.

Depending on state law, nurse anesthetists either work independently or within a collaborative team of health care professionals. According to The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), they are the only anesthesia professionals working in over 60% of rural hospitals and the primary anesthesia providers for members of the U.S. armed forces and pregnant women.

Because most surgeries are performed in the daytime, CRNAs generally work regular business hours. However, they often spend nights, weekends and holidays on call and can be summoned at any time in the event of an emergency.

Salary and Job Outlook

State
Average Wage
Texas
$152670
Ohio
$156820
North Carolina
$164670
Pennsylvania
$159700
Florida
$163370

Hover over any state to explore local income and job growth data.

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ALABAMA

Median Salary: 
$154,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $112,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Birmingham$110,620$150,690Over $187,200
Huntsville$128,130$165,280Over $187,200

ALASKA

Median Salary: 
$116,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $101,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

ARIZONA

Median Salary: 
$137,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Phoenix$33,310$72,710$177,220
Tuscon$131,640$161,730Over $187,200

ARKANSAS

Median Salary: 
$143,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $108,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 22%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Little Rock$107,120$134,670Over $187,200

CALIFORNIA

Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $76,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 27%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Los Angeles$116,640$172,910Over $187,200
San Francisco Bay$66,810Over $187,200Over $187,200
San Diego$155,390Over $187,200Over $187,200

COLORADO

Median Salary: 
$151,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $78,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 31%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Denver$74,040$100,930Over $187,200

CONNECTICUT

Median Salary: 
$168,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $52,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Bridgeport$131,930$175,150Over $187,200

DELAWARE

Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 13%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

Median Salary: 
$158,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $133,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Washington DC$96,180$156,940Over $187,200

FLORIDA

Median Salary: 
$143,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $92,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 35%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 190

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Miami$120,340$146,440Over $187,200
Orlando$107,040$128,920$156,830
Tampa$108,700$149,140Over $187,200
Jacksonville$114,300$150,790Over $187,200

GEORGIA

Median Salary: 
$144,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $103,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $187,100

2014-2024 Job Growth: 28%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Atlanta$103,330$123,240$180,740
Augusta$137,450$165,910Over $187,200

HAWAII

Median Salary: 
$185,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $133,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Honolulu$137,560$186,550Over $187,200

IDAHO

Median Salary: 
$160,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $133,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

ILLINOIS

Median Salary: 
$136,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $49,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 80

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Chicago$46,320$73,780$174,230

INDIANA

Median Salary: 
$146,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $62,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Indianapolis$56,810$114,530$172,260

IOWA

Median Salary: 
$174,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $127,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 12%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Des Moines$42,830$172,440Over $187,200

KANSAS

Median Salary: 
$145,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $114,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Wichita$111,590$154,570Over $187,200
Kansas City$62,810$147,350Over $187,200

KENTUCKY

Median Salary: 
$154,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $106,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 90

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Louisville$113,500$166,390Over $187,200
Lexington$103,640$128,680$173,790

LOUISIANA

Median Salary: 
$134,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $67,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): $185,300

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New Orleans$67,360$124,800Over $187,200
Lafayette$82,950$95,040$142,150

MAINE

Median Salary: 
$158,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $114,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$127,610$154,560Over $187,200

MARYLAND

Median Salary: 
$149,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $86,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 24%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Baltimore$82,470$142,120$168,050

MASSACHUSETTS

Median Salary: 
$164,400
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $45,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Boston$43,000$155,800Over $187,200
Worcester$43,140$165,760Over $187,200

MICHIGAN

Median Salary: 
$180,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $146,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 8%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 60

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Detroit$160,780$184,310Over $187,200
Grand Rapids$70,510$150,510$182,220

MINNESOTA

Median Salary: 
$173,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $141,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 50

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Minneapolis - St. Paul$138,040$164,240Over $187,200
Rochester$164,710$185,100Over $187,200

MISSISSIPPI

Median Salary: 
$161,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $114,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

MISSOURI

Median Salary: 
$154,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $108,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 7%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 40

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
St. Louis$110,740$151,530Over $187,200
Kansas City$62,810$147,350Over $187,200

MONTANA

Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $156,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

Job Growth Data Not Available

NEBRASKA

Median Salary: 
$158,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $95,200
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 14%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Omaha$79,430$151,050Over $187,200
Lincoln$104,140$130,120$152,650

NEVADA

Salary Data Not Available

2014-2024 Job Growth: 44%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

NEW HAMPSHIRE

Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $139,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

Job Growth Data Not Available

NEW JERSEY

Median Salary: 
$182,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $144,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 30

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Newark$134,640Over $187,200Over $187,200

NEW MEXICO

Median Salary: 
$164,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $34,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 18%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

NEW YORK

Median Salary: 
$159,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $132,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 20%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
New York City$120,370$165,590Over $187,200
Buffalo$133,040$150,830Over $187,200
Rochester$135,160$159,170Over $187,200
Albany$130,820$147,960$175,790

NORTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$154,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $115,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 23%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 130

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Charlotte$111,970$164,010Over $187,200
Raleigh$108,190$137,780$163,430
Winston - Salem$113,230$158,860Over $187,200

NORTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$181,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $149,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

OHIO

Median Salary: 
$145,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $114,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 19%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 100

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Cleveland$111,710$145,710Over $187,200
Columbus$116,460$147,830$186,750
Cincinnati$106,050$142,220$172,320
Dayton$125,900$141,480$161,220

OKLAHOMA

Median Salary: 
$167,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $125,500
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 15%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Oklahoma City$31,750$171,400Over $187,200
Tulsa$115,290$163,060Over $187,200

OREGON

Median Salary: 
$182,600
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $127,800
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 43%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Portland$140,700$181,780Over $187,200

PENNSYLVANIA

Median Salary: 
$150,500
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $119,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Philadelphia$123,710$170,430Over $187,200
Pittsburgh$118,030$147,240$165,840
Harrisburg$146,320$175,370Over $187,200
Allentown$125,160$143,270$172,680

RHODE ISLAND

Salary and Job Growth Data Not Available

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Providence$138,990Over $187,200Over $187,200

SOUTH CAROLINA

Median Salary: 
$152,100
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $95,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Greenville$26,300$160,590Over $187,200
Charleston$42,200$146,140Over $187,200

SOUTH DAKOTA

Median Salary: 
$173,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $132,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 11%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Sioux Falls$144,580$179,030Over $187,200
Rapid City$71,760$161,540Over $187,200

TENNESSEE

Median Salary: 
$143,900
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $111,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 32%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 110

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Nashville$113,310$143,970$174,450
Memphis$105,530$121,130Over $187,200
Knoxville$112,270$148,380Over $187,200
Chattanooga$125,240$140,080$154,860

TEXAS

Median Salary: 
$153,800
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $66,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 34%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 180

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Houston$113,460$158,980Over $187,200
San Antonio$123,790$183,220Over $187,200

UTAH

Median Salary: 
$155,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $127,000
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 39%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Salt Lake City$127,020$159,350Over $187,200

VERMONT

Median Salary: 
$151,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $130,100
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 9%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$155,000
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $107,400
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 29%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 70

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Virginia Beach$110,940$160,490Over $187,200
Richmond$108,770$146,750Over $187,200

WASHINGTON

Median Salary: 
$178,300
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $72,600
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 16%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Seattle$97,750$178,310Over $187,200
Spokane$56,760$169,740Over $187,200

WEST VIRGINIA

Median Salary: 
$163,700
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $135,700
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 6%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 10

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Huntington$131,170$162,660Over $187,200
Charleston$135,160$162,480Over $187,200

WISCONSIN

Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $145,300
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 10%
Projected Annual Job Openings: 20

SALARY BY METRO AREA:

CityEntry LevelMedianLots of Experience
Milwaukee$28,190$169,760Over $187,200

WYOMING

Median Salary: 
Over $187,200
Bottom 10% (Entry Level): $93,900
Top 10% (Lots of Experience): Over $187,200

2014-2024 Job Growth: 17%
Projected Annual Job Openings: Fewer than 10

Anesthesia care is among the most lucrative nursing specialties. Nurse anesthetists enjoy a median annual salary of $157,140, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics. Salaries vary by geographic region and practice setting and are generally best in major metropolitan areas.

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook, employment of CRNAs is projected to grow by 31% between 2014 and 2024, which is considerably faster than the average for all occupations.

There is currently a shortage of qualified CRNAs in the United States. Because these professionals provide cost-effective services in an era when health care facilities are scrambling to contain rising costs, demand for CRNA services is likely to rise. In addition, nurse anesthetists play an important role in promoting patient safety and increasing health care accessibility for underserved populations.

In the job market, candidates who hold a doctorate have a slight edge over those with a master’s degree.

Compare Salaries by City

Houston TX Median Pay

$158980 Per Year

$76.43 Per Hour

Minneapolis - St. Paul MN Median Pay

$164240 Per Year

$78.96 Per Hour

Steps to Become a Nurse Anesthetist

1

Earn a bachelor's degree in nursing and be licensed as an RN.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CRNAs must acquire at least a master’s degree, and some choose to acquire a doctoral degree in nursing. Either way, this means years of academic and clinical study beyond the high school level. Typically this begins with earning a bachelor’s degree in nursing and obtaining licensure as a registered nurse (RN). However, some master’s degree programs admit students who have earned an associate’s degree, effectively allowing them to jump from an associate’s to a master’s degree during the course of the program (often called a bridge program).

Show Me Schools »

2

Get professional nursing experience in clinical care.

Graduate programs admit students who have already earned a bachelor’s degree in nursing (the BSN degree) and have their RN licensure. You must also have at least one year of adult critical care experience as a practicing RN – for instance, in an adult ICU rather than a neonatal or pediatric ICU. You should check and confirm the specific admission requirements of programs you’re interested in, once you’ve qualified as an RN. Your top programs may prefer to admit RNs who have two or more years of critical care experience, rather than the minimum. Some programs may also give preference to nurses who have worked in large medical centers; the operative assumption (valid or not) is that a fast-paced environment provides better preparation for an intensive course of study.

3

Complete a graduate degree from an accredited institution.

If you’re planning a career as a nurse anesthetist, you’ll need to earn an advanced degree – a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) or Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). The core curricula of these programs are identical, with additional research and clinical requirements for doctoral students. Both pathways take 2-3 years to complete. During graduate school, CRNAs complete about 2,500 hours of clinical training and administer approximately 850 anesthetics, according to AANA. By 2025, all programs in the U.S. will be offered at the doctoral level only.

There are over 100 accredited CRNA programs in the United States, and that number is growing each year. The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) maintains an updated list of approved institutions on its website.

Some institutions offer nurse anesthetist certificate programs for qualifying students who hold a master’s or professional degree in a non-nursing discipline. CRNAs must complete additional post-graduate study to practice in specialties such as pediatrics or obstetrics.

4

Become certified as a CRNA.

Nurses must be licensed in all states. Upon graduation from an accredited program, nurse anesthetist candidates may sit for the CRNA certification exam through the National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (source: U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics). The CRNA certification is recognized throughout the U.S. and its territories. To maintain their credentials, practicing CRNAs must participate in continuing education throughout their careers.

5

Consider opportunities for advancement.

Experienced CRNAs often head care teams or take administrative positions within health care facilities. Others start private practices, pain management clinics or other businesses. Nurse anesthetists with a doctorate have the opportunity to teach at the university level or conduct research.

Explore Degree Paths

There are several different educational paths you might take toward a degree in nurse anesthesia. Because you need to earn a bachelor’s in order to proceed with graduate training, the BSN-RN is your shortest route to qualification as a nurse anesthetist. If earning a bachelor’s is not feasible for you right away, you can still become a CRNA. Many nursing schools offer “bridge” programs that allow working nurses with a CNA to earn a PN degree; those with a PN to earn an associate degree, or a BSN; and those with an associate degree to earn a BSN.

Whatever your choice, make sure that the undergraduate degree programs you enroll in are nationally accredited, since this will affect your ability to advance your career and pursue graduate studies. Your state’s Nursing Commission is a valuable resource: look for education programs approved by the CCNE (Collegiate Council of Nursing Education) or ACEN (Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing; formerly NLNAC). You should also check webpages administered by the graduate programs that interest you, and find out what accreditation they require from incoming students’ BSN programs.

BACHELOR'S DEGREE IN NURSING

approx. 4 years

A bachelor’s (baccalaureate) degree opens the door to graduate education in nursing, and most forms of advanced-practice certification. This is your route to teaching, research, and leadership positions. Many hospitals prefer to hire BSN-RNs, and encourage AD-RNs to acquire the BSN degree.

Show Me Schools »

In a traditional BSN program, your studies in nursing science make up your major coursework; these courses are supported by the liberal arts curriculum of a four-year university degree. This means that you’ll take classes in the arts, humanities and social sciences, as well as a series of life-science classes – biology, chemistry, and statistics – that provide the foundation for your nursing specialty. Future nurse anesthetists, take note: do not pass up the chance to take a solid expository writing course!

In general, students begin taking nursing specialty courses in their second year. Your coursework will likely include:

Human anatomy and physiology (with laboratory)

Students explore the structure of the human body and the complex mechanisms controlling homeostasis. The class will include a lab section with detailed dissections.

Organic chemistry and basic biochemistry (1-2 semesters)

An introduction to the chemical reactions intrinsic to life; you’ll learn about the four main classes of biomolecules and how they are synthesized.

Microbiology (with laboratory)

Study the biology of viruses and bacteria – genetics, growth, and reproduction – with emphasis on roles in human disease.

Nursing competencies (2+ semesters, with clinical practicum)

Foundational nursing skills are discussed in the classroom and practiced in a clinical setting.

If you’ve already earned a bachelor’s or higher degree in a different field, you may have alternatives to enrolling in a traditional BSN program. You should look for an accelerated BSN (ABSN) degree option, which would allow you to earn your professional degree after a shorter period of study.

NURSE ANESTHETIST GRADUATE PROGRAM

24-28 months, MSN; 36 months, DNP

Bachelor’s-prepared nurses (BSN-RNs) who want to qualify as a CRNA have two training options at this time: a master’s degree (MSN) in nurse anesthesia, or a doctorate in nursing practice (DNP) with a specialty in nurse anesthesia. You do not need to have an MSN in order to apply for admission to a doctoral degree program, though advanced-practice nurses can enroll and earn their terminal degree in a shorter period of time.

Nurse anesthetists work with a great deal of autonomy – this profession can be an excellent fit for a detail-minded person who thrives on responsibility. The demands of the career path and its required studies also mean that nurse anesthesia degree programs typically have a rigorous admission process, including interviews in which applicants are asked to demonstrate organization and critical thinking in a writing sample. The oral component of interviews explores applicants’ depth of training, leadership potential, and commitment to care.

Many nursing schools are currently phasing out master’s options in nurse anesthesia, and moving to a DNP model. By 2025, all U.S. programs will have shifted to the doctoral degree option. At present, the difference between a master’s and doctoral degree program in this field of specialty amounts to one year of full-time study.

A graduate program in nurse anesthesia incorporates coursework with relevance to many areas of advanced-practice nursing, as well as courses that are fundamental to the specialty, like advanced human physiology and advanced pharmacology. Your studies will include courses like:

Advanced pharmacology

Prescriptive knowledge of common pharmacologic agents for the advanced-practice nurse. Nurse anesthetists need a sophisticated understanding of drug action on the body, including rates of uptake and speed of elimination. You can expect to take at least two semesters of advanced pharmacology, including one semester designed for anesthesia students.

Advanced physiology and pathophysiology (2+ semesters)

A course that examines how the perturbation of normal (healthy) body processes and functions leads to disease, with an emphasis on the mechanisms underlying measurable symptoms. Nurse anesthesia students will take a more rigorous version of this course than is typical for most APRN specialties.

Principles of nurse anesthesia (3+ semesters)

Students learn how to deliver anesthesia care, from evaluating patients prior to surgery to managing risks for patients with chronic health problems and sensitivities. This course spans foundational principles and advanced techniques, usually over several semesters.

Leadership for health professions

Students learn to think analytically about leadership on an interpersonal scale – for instance, communication techniques and organizational strategy – as well as on a much larger scale, encompassing issues in medical ethics and healthcare policy.

Note that if you already have an MSN and you want to earn a post-graduate certificate as a nurse anesthetist, rather than a DNP, this will require at least two years of full-time study. There are currently 25 programs in the U.S. that offer a post-master’s certificate.

Keys to Success as a Nurse Anesthetist

Necessary Skills and Qualities

Organizational skills

Regardless of practice level, all RNs must possess organizational skills so they can keep track of medications administered to their patients.

Critical thinking

Nurses need to be critical thinkers. Because they work in high-stakes settings, CRNAs need to be independent, and able to think and act decisively under pressure.

Teaching skills

CRNAs should have strong teaching skills so they can direct and motivate the people around them.

Teamwork skills

Patience, compassion and the ability to communicate clearly with patients and team members are also key assets.

Good physical health

Physical fitness will help them to stand and walk for long periods without fatiguing.

Professional Development

  • All nurse anesthetists who become certified in/after 2017 will be automatically included in the profession’s CPC (continuing professional recertification) program. Your professional certification remains current for eight years; during this cycle, you must earn at least 100 continuing education credits per four-year period, and complete a number of online educational modules. Every eight years, you have to pass a recertification exam. For more information, visit National Board of Certification & Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).
  • Continuing education opportunities are crucial for keeping your knowledge of anesthesia practice up-to-date and meeting recertification standards. CE opportunities include seminars, live classes, and online courses.
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