Nurse anesthetists are an advanced level of practicing registered nurses who assist patients in dealing with pain management before and during operations, for injuries, and during the birth of infants in the form of an epidural. They work in high stress environments, as most of their patients are in pain. More than two thirds of United States hospitals have nurse anesthetists as the main source of anesthesia within their facilities.
The Different Education Pathways
To become a nurse anesthetist, one of the following forms of education must be completed:
- Diploma: A diploma does not meet the minimum educational requirements for a nurse anesthetist. Most nurse anesthetists will require a graduate or doctorate level of education, which cannot be reached through a 3 year hospital training program or college diploma.
- Associate Degree: A two year associate degree in nursing does not meet the minimum requirement for a nurse anesthetist. However, a bridge program can be completed following licensure as a registered nurse which can bring an associate level RN to BSN status.
- Undergraduate Degree: In order to become a nurse anesthetist, one must first become a registered nurse, which means completing a Bachelor of Science in nursing degree over a four-year term at an accredited university. Courses such as anatomy, microbiology, and pharmacology will be completed during this time. This is the basic requirement to begin this career path and must be followed by a year of practice as an RN, before a graduate level degree is achieved.
- Graduate Degree: A Master of Science in nursing degree or an Advanced Graduate Study in a school with a nurse anesthesia program, must be completed in order to work as a nurse anesthetist. This means an addition 2-3 years on top of the previously acquired schooling in order to have a sufficient level of academics to continue in this specialization.
- Doctorate Degree: A Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) is another additional level of learning that can be completed in a period of 1-3 years by students who have previously graduated from first an undergraduate then a graduate level of education.
There are some online learning possibilities within the graduate level of learning for nurse anesthetics but many schools prefer hands-on classroom learning due to the delicate subject matter.
The NCLEX-RN national licensure examination must be passed in order to work as a nurse within the United States. Following this, a nurse anesthetist will work for at least one year or 1000 hours to gain experience before continuing to a graduate level program. A secondary certification level is available through the Board of Certification or Recertification for nurse anesthesia.
Prerequisites for Study
The prerequisites for entering a graduate level program for nurse anesthesia is a 3.0 GPA or higher for most universities, although some may accept a GPA of 2.0
Nursing is a serious career path and schools must be accredited. To determine accreditation students can check sources such as The United States Department of Education, The Accreditation Commission for the Education of Nurses, or The American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Getting Certified as a Nurse Anesthetist
The NCLEX-RN national licensure examination must be passed in order to work as a nurse within the United States. Following this, a nurse anesthetist will work for at least one year or 1000 hours to gain experience before continuing into a graduate level program. A secondary certification level is available through the Board of Certification or Recertification for nurse anesthesia. These credentialing centers determine how certification is achieved through categories; these categories have been established nationally and are the following:
- Safety in a caring environment during illness or injury.
- Having the ability to adapt to difficult situations with psychological integrity.
- Ability to focus on the prevention of injury and sickness through health maintenance and promotion.
- Creating comfort and physical well-being through physiological integrity.
The Cost of Becoming a Nurse Anesthetist
Cost of Becoming a Nurse: Nursing tuition rates vary from school to school and state to state; they also change based on which program is being undergone. In order to determine an up to date tuition rate, check with your university’s admissions office for more information.
Scholarships for Nurse Anesthetists
Nurse anesthetists have a number of options for financial assistance including government grants, student loans and scholarships. The Janice Drake CRNA Humanitarian Award is awarded to a certified registered nurse anesthetist who works with needy regions of the country to deliver anesthesia and pain relief. The John F. Garde Researcher of the Year Scholarship is another financial award that nurse anesthetists can receive for a display of leadership and excellence in the field of research.
Working as a Nurse Anesthetist
Nurse anesthetists work in operating rooms, outpatient centers, emergency rooms, and in-pain management units. They provide anesthetics for patients who require pain medication such as epidurals during childbirth, or other forms of anesthesia for operations and injuries. This is recognized as one of the highest paid nursing positions in the United States and is an advanced level of nursing.
- Training and Care: Nurse Anesthetists learn a variety of critical care and pain management skills, as well as additional pharmacology and anesthesia information. They are trained in the use of specialized equipment and may work in a number of medical settings.
- Job Outlook: The United States Bureau of Labor Statistics the job outlook for nurse anesthetists has a predicted job growth of 31% by the year 2022, which is a faster than average rate of growth for many industries across the United States, as well as within the field of nursing and medical care.
- Rate of Pay: According to salary.com, nurse anesthetists make a median annual salary of $163,573. This amount may alter depending on level of education and years of experience in the field.