How to Become a CRNA

One of the best-paying nursing specialties is a certified registered nurse anesthetist, or CRNA. A nurse anesthetist handles all areas of the administration and management of anesthesia in clinics, hospitals, delivery rooms, dental offices and other healthcare organizations. These professionals are highly trained to administer many types of anesthetics and provide pain management for all types of surgery. CRNAs also make sure that the vital functions of patients are normal during the administration of anesthesia.

This is an excellent-paying career field to enter, and there is much demand for registered nurse anesthetists. The median pay in the field is around $163,000 per year. One of the reasons that this field is growing so fast is that a CRNA, while very well paid, earns only a fraction of what a full anesthesiologist earns. At this time there are about 38,000 CRNAs practicing in the US.

To become a CRNA, this is what you will need to do:

Get Your Undergraduate Nursing Degree

To be certified as a CRNA, you first need to become a registered nurse and hold a bachelor’s degree in the field of nursing. For your first two years of nursing school, you will take classes in chemistry, biology and physiology. Many of these can be completed at a community college, which can result in you earning your associate’s degree. The second two years of your program should result in the earning of your bachelor’s degree in nursing. The classes that you need to have include family/community health, sciences, ethics and nursing practice. You also will need to finish several clinical rotations.

If you earn your associate’s degree, you may be able to find an entry level nursing position, and then get tuition reimbursement benefits to work towards your bachelor’s degree. Note that you also can earn an accelerated bachelor’s degree in nursing if you have a degree in another field.

To become a CRNA, you really need to make sure that you have at least a 3.0 GPA in your undergraduate nursing program. This is because the field is extremely demanding and difficult, so the universities that offer CRNA programs are quite selective.

Get Your Registered Nurse License

The state licensing requirements in your area will vary, but you must have your RN license to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist. You need to pass the exam that is required by your state nursing board, or state regulatory agency, for you to earn your RN license. See what to know about becoming a RN.

Gain Practical Nursing Experience

To enroll in a nurse anesthetist degree program, you will need to have 2-3 years of experience in nursing, most likely in a critical care setting. It is best if you get this experience in an ICU unit in a hospital, or a surgical intensive care unit.

Earn Your Nurse Anesthesia Degree

Next you need to earn your master’s degree in nurse anesthesia. It will take you about three years to earn this degree. You will learn all about anesthesia equipment and management, and you will have a great deal of classroom and clinical practice. In the first part of the program, you will take classes in physiology, pain management, pharmacology and anesthesia for various medical specialties. The next part of your program will involve you getting clinical experience under the supervision of physicians.

Apply for Your Certification

After you graduate with your master’s degree, you then will be eligible to sit for your CRNA exam. This exam and certification is given by the NBCRNA. You also will need to have a valid RN license, and you cannot have any physical or mental problems, or any drug or alcohol problems.