Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists

CRNA’s are essential to an effective healthcare team and fill the need for advanced level nurses to meet the needs of the healthcare system. By obtaining your master’s degree you’ll be able to take the national exam that allows you to become a certified registered nurse anesthetists. The additional schooling and time needed to become a CRNA is worth it as US News and World Report ranks CRNA’s as the #3 best job in healthcare.

CRNA Nurse Anesthetist

CRNA’s work with anesthesiologists, surgeons, dentists and other healthcare professionals to make sure anesthesia is administered safely.  Additionally CRNA’s can be responsible for assisting with stabilization services, overseeing patient recovery needs and delivering pain management solutions. Some other responsibilities include:

  • Giving epidural, spinal and nerve blocks
  • Monitoring care before, during and after administering anesthesia
  • Administering anesthesia for surgical, diagnostic, therapeutic and obstetric procedures
  • Monitoring vital signs during procedures
  • Reviewing the patient’s medical records for allergies, illnesses, histories to ensure care is delivered accurately
  • Talking with patients about potential side effects or contraindications

CRNA’s work in a variety of settings including:

  • Mobile surgery centers
  • Military medical facilities
  • Outpatient care centers
  • Critical access hospitals
  • Medical and surgical hospitals
  • Rural health clinics
  • Offices of pain management specialists, plastic surgeons, dentists and many other medical professionals

CRNA Program

A requirement for any CRNA program is to have your RN license in good standing. While it is possible to become an RN with just an associate’s degree, most CRNA programs require that must have your bachelor’s degree. Requirements will vary between programs but the following are generally standard:

  • Letters of recommendation, typically three or more
  • An essay outlining your career goals
  • Official transcripts from your undergraduate college
  • A resume describing your relevant work experience
  • A completed background check
  • Up to date CPR, basic life support and advanced life support certifications

Before starting a CRNA program you will have to have experience as an RN in a critical care setting for at least one year, though some schools may require more.  The average experience of nurses entering a CRNA program is 2.9 years according to the ANAA.  Some nurses earn their certification as a critical care registered nurse (CCRNC) as a way to increase their chance of being accepted to a program. It isn’t necessary but will definitely make your resume stand out.

Most programs will require that you take the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) before entering. Schools are looking for a score higher than 300 but the GRE requirement can be waived in some cases.  Programs will typically require a 3.0 GPA with some being as high as 3.5. You should have earned at least a 3.0 in your health and science courses.

By studying advanced pharmacology and physiology you’ll understand anesthesia and how to deliver it safely. The courses you take in your CRNA program will prepare you to administer anesthesia and monitor patients before, during and after surgery. Some typical classes include:

  • How to use relevant advanced tools and technology
  • Healthcare ethics
  • Advanced pharmacology
  • Best nursing practices
  • Advanced physiology
  • Biostatistics
  • Principles of nurse anesthesia
  • Advanced pathophysiology
  • Chemistry

There will be other course requirements specified by your school. You also may choose to specialize in areas such as neurosurgery, pediatrics, dental surgery, obstetrics, etc. CRNA programs will also require an internship or clinical fieldwork. This internship/fieldwork will have you working alongside experienced CRNA’s while gaining hands-on knowledge and experience. Under supervision, and in a controlled environment, you’ll practice anesthesia in a real world setting. A typical CRNA program will require you to complete 2,000 hours of clinical practice over the course of two years. There are plenty of online CRNA programs that can help you earn your degree faster but keep in mind that your internship and clinical hours will have to be in person.

A normal CRNA program takes between 24-51 months to complete depending whether you are attending part time, full time or online. The total time it takes to get the education you need to sit for the CRNA certification exam is seven years. This includes completing a bachelor’s degree (4 years) Critical care experience (1 year min) completing master’s degree in nurse anesthesia (2 years min.)

Once you complete your nurse anesthetist coursework you will need to take the certification exam. It’s administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) and will ask you to answer between 100 – 170 questions. You will receive a preliminary pass/fail status upon completion of the exam with official results being mailed to you within four weeks.

CRNA Nurse Job Outlook

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics the top 25 percent of certified registered nurse anesthetists, those likely to hold doctorate degrees, earned a salary that was at or above $194,990, as of May 2018.

The top paying industries for these DNP nurses at this time were:

  • Outpatient care centers
  • General medical and surgical hospitals
  • Specialty hospitals
  • Federal executive branch
  • Physician offices

It’s clear that completing a CRNA program will elevate your career and open new opportunities for you.

Average Annual Salary for CRNA


Data from Bureau of Labor Statistics

Average Hourly Rate for CRNA


Data from Bureau of Labor Statistics

Job Market Growth


Data from Bureau of Labor Statistics

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