How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist
One of the most in-demand jobs in nursing today is that of a nurse anesthetist, a special type of advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) who is certified and trained in administering anesthesia to patients. Employment for nurse anesthetists is expected to grow by 16 percent by 2026, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) provide care in a variety of settings, including hospitals, physician’s offices, rural and medically underserved areas and the military. They can also work in non-clinical settings as a teacher, researcher, or administrator.
Nurse anesthetists are seen as leaders on the healthcare team and their specialized training and education mean they have ample opportunities for employment and career advancement. U.S. News ranked Nurse Anesthetist #11 on its list of Best Paying Jobs and #17 on the list of Best Healthcare Jobs for 2018.
Interested in joining this fast-growing field? Follow these five steps to begin your career as a nurse anesthetist.
1. Enroll in a BSN program
Earning your bachelor’s degree in nursing (BSN) is the first step to beginning your career as a nurse anesthetist. These roles typically require nurses to earn a specialized master’s degree in nursing (MSN).
It will generally take between three to four years for you to complete your BSN, depending on your prior learning experience. While a bachelor’s degree is not required in order to sit for the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX), it will offer you a competitive advantage in the job market for registered nursing roles and will qualify you to enroll in an MSN program later on in your career.
2. Become a registered nurse
After you graduate from your BSN program, you must sit for the NCLEX. If you successfully pass this national examination, you will be eligible to practice as a registered nurse in the state in which you took the exam and you can apply for licensure in all 50 states. While your BSN program will help prepare you for this important exam, you will need to take advantage of outside resources and study hard if you want to pass on your first try. These NCLEX-RN study tips can help.
3. Gain experience in an acute care setting
You will need to gain experience as a registered nurse before you can apply to a nurse anesthesia program. Specifically, you will need one year of experience working in an acute care setting, such as the ICU or the emergency room of a hospital or an ambulatory center. These settings help you become more comfortable with urgent care situations and allow you to learn skills such as attention to detail and critical thinking, which are essential for your career development.
4. Earn your Master’s degree from an accredited program
In order to become a nurse anesthetist, you must earn an MSN from an accredited nurse anesthesia program, which typically takes between 24 and 36 months to complete. The most prominent accreditation board is the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (CANAE). You can find an accredited program in your area by searching this list.
Admission to these programs can be very competitive, so it’s a good idea to research programs you’re interested in and look at their requirements ahead of time. For example, some programs may require job shadowing experience with a CRNA or anesthesiologist.
5. Become certified
You’re almost there! The final step to starting your career as a nurse anesthetist is to pass the national certification exam administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). This exam has a pass rate of 84 percent for first-time takers, so make sure you study beforehand. The NBRCNA website offers exam tutorials and practice exams to help you prepare.
Herzing University offers a variety of nursing programs to help you begin or advance your nursing career, making it easier for you to get started on your path to becoming a nurse anesthetist.