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Nurse Anesthetist Schooling

Since the Civil War era, the role of a nurse anesthetist has been to provide anesthesia to the sick and wounded in order to make medical treatments and procedures less painful for the patient. As a result, a career as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) requires a high degree of precision and attention as CRNAs administer anesthesia in almost any healthcare setting from a traditional hospital to a dental office. Moreover, according to The American Association of Nurse Anesthetist (AANA), CRNAs tend to be the main anesthesia administrators in rural hospitals and in the U.S. Armed Forces. Due to this high level of responsibility across multiple healthcare settings, CRNAs enjoy an elevated level of autonomy and respect in comparison to other nursing careers.

Education

In order to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), a nursing student must complete a list of requirements that include obtaining higher scholastic degrees in nursing. According to The American Association of Nurse Anesthetist (AANA), a CRNA traditionally starts their career path by earning a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and and getting licensed as a registered nurse (RN). With both of these qualifications, a nursing student can begin his or her career in an entry-level nursing position and gain valuable healthcare experience for the next phase of their career and education. Next, a CRNA typically needs, at minimum, a Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) from an accredited school with an anesthetist program although most healthcare facilities require nursing students to have a doctorate in nursing (DPN). Both a Master’s degree and Doctorate in Nurse anesthesia programs may last between 2-3 years each, but this will depend on the program and could include clinical training through a university hospital or program placement in larger public hospitals.

Despite the educational requirements to become a CRNA, enrolling into nurse anesthetist schools or programs can be highly competitive. For most programs, candidates must spend at least 1 year in an acute care setting such as surgery or critical care, in order to be considered for an MSN or doctorate program.

In certified nurse anesthetist schools or programs, students may expect to delve into coursework in Chemistry of Anesthesia, Anatomy, Pharmacology, and Physiology, along with laboratory classes that emphasize knowledge of the human body and even simulate real-life casework. Along with these classes, students are expected to complete 1-2 years of clinical rotations. These clinical rotations aim to provide the student with experience that simulates the variety of cases and patients that a nurse anesthesiologist could work with throughout their career. The clinical training side of a program typically provides students the opportunity to work and alternate within various fields of a hospital such as pediatrics, general medicine, and even burn units. During the course of their graduate education, CRNA candidates receive approximately 2,500 clinical hours of experience and, according to the AANA, administer 850 doses of anesthetics.

Lastly, in order to start practicing as a CRNA, students must pass the nurse anesthetist certification exam administered through the National Board of Certification and Rectification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). By passing this certification exam, along with the clinical experience obtained through their education, CRNAs can start practicing in almost any healthcare setting where anesthesia is needed. Nevertheless, the autonomy or practice of a CRNA may be limited according to state regulations in nursing and healthcare. In some states, CRNAs have full autonomy to administer anesthesia to their patients; however, in other states, CRNAs must work in a small team of healthcare professionals, such as doctors and head nurses, to determine the care of the patient.

Outlook

With the intensity and longevity of these programs, the cost to become a CRNA may seem daunting. While the cost of a master’s degree in nurse anesthesia varies from $36,000-$42,000 per year, the difference of cost for in-state tuition could reduce the total price for a nurse anesthetist education. Moreover, a nurse anesthetist would have spent a minimum of 7 years obtaining their overall education, which includes the 4 years of a bachelor’s degree, the year of practice and experience as an RN, and the average 2 years obtaining a master’s degree. However, with the rising requirement for CRNAs to hold a DNP degree, The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has required most MSN programs to transition into DNP degrees as of 2015. Thus, CRNA candidates are required the same amount of schooling but instead, obtain a higher educational degree in nursing through more intensive coursework and at reduced costs than previous CRNA students.

Moreover, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, a career as a nurse anesthetist has reported an employment increase of 3.9% and a mean annual wage of $158,900. While, in other healthcare settings such as medical and surgical hospitals and outpatient care centers, CRNAs make approximately $167,000 annually. The current states with the highest employment level include: Texas, Florida, North Carolina, Ohio, and Pennsylvania. While, the top paying states for CRNAs include: New Hampshire, Nevada, Wisconsin, Connecticut, and Wyoming.

Choosing to become a nurse anesthetist traditionally takes several years of an education and thousands of hours of experience in caring for and overseeing patients. Choosing the path of a CRNA aims to provide nurses with advanced education in order to reduce the pain and suffering of a patient in order to administer the best healthcare possible.

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