What is a CRNA?
A CRNA is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. CRNA's work primarily in hospitals, but also in clinics and medical/dental offices, creating a plan for pain management, administer the drugs, manage complications as they arise and monitor the patient before and during surgery and post-recovery. Customizing care is a key part of a CRNA's anesthesia plan; they constantly monitor their patient's vital signs and other clinical indicators to make the necessary adjustments.
Education Requirements for Nurse Anesthetists
The education required to become a CRNA is quite extensive and takes several years. Before a nurse is accepted into a CRNA training program, he or she must earn an undergraduate degree, usually aBachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree, and pass the NCLEX to obtain a license to work as a registered nurse. After earning an undergraduate degree andobtaining licensure, the registered nurse must have a minimum of one year of clinical experience in an acute or critical care setting.
Once accepted into a CRNA degree program (they can be quite competitive), it takes between two to three years to complete, depending on the program. A great deal of clinical and hospital experience, close to 1700 hours on average, is required during their training. Finally, the CRNA student must pass the board certification exam to earn their license to practice.
Re-Certification Notes for Nurse Anesthetists
Re-certification is required every two years. A minimum of 40 credit hours of continuing education and evidence of current clinical practice are required for a CRNA to be re-certified.
The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists is the professional association that provides guidance and standards for practice. Recently, the National Board on the Certification and Re-certification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) was formed to help CRNAs through the certification and re-certification process.
How to Become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
By Lisa Davila
Nurses started as anesthesia providers during the Civil War, when they gave anesthesia to wounded soldiers on the battlefields. Theyve come a long way since then, with official credentialing as Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) starting in 1956.
Todays CRNAs are masters prepared advanced practice nurses who apply their specialty in just about all settings including hospital operating rooms and delivery rooms; ambulatory surgical centers; the offices of dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons, and pain management specialists; U.S. military, public health services, and Department of Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities.
According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), CRNAs are the sole anesthesia providers in two-thirds of all rural U.S. hospitals, and the main providers of anesthesia to expectant mothers and also to men and women serving in the U.S. Armed Forces.
CRNAs work hand-in-hand with specialists such as surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, and ophthalmologists. Although the practice of administering anesthesia is the same, when its given by a nurse anesthetist, it is considered as nursing practice; when given by an anesthesiologist, it is considered as medical practice.
“CRNAs work hand-in-hand with specialists such as surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, and ophthalmologists.”
The AANA website states that CRNAs enjoy a high degree of autonomy and professional respect, and that they are well compensated for their complex level of responsibility.
Paths to a CRNA
Sound like a good fit for you? According to the AANA, there is a specific pathway to follow. However, always check the particular program you are interested in because requirements vary.
Get a bachelors degree. A degree in nursing is ideal, but almost any other bachelors degree will sufficeas long as youve also attended some type of nursing program (such as an associate degree or diploma program). Having a high GPA helps.
Have a current RN license. Theres no way around this requirementevenphysicians have to be licensed as RNs to enter a CRNA program.
Work in an acute care setting for at least one year. Most programs prefer candidates who have worked in critical care, operating room, or surgical specialties. One year is a minimum requirementmore experience makes you a better candidate.
Obtain your masters degree from an accredited nurse anesthesia program. You may need to take the GRE before applying, so aim for a high score. Some programs offer a certificate CRNA program for people who already have a masters degree in another nursing specialty.
Pass the national certification examination. If youve made it through the process above, you will be prepared to pass this exam and start your exciting career.
Where can I find a CRNA program?
CRNA programs have proliferated across the U.S. in response to demand. According to AANA, as of April 2011 there were 111 nurse anesthesia programs in 35 U.S. states and also in Washington D.C. and Puerto Rico. You can expect to be in school for two to three years, depending upon individual program requirements. Below is a comprehensive list of CRNA programs.