Becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

The profession of nurse anesthetists is hardly known outside the medical field, although it is a necessary service. During the late 19th and early 20th centuries, much surgery was conducted without anesthesia, as it was considered too dangerous by most physicians. However, at the dawn of the 20th century, a few intrepid nuns began administering anesthesia to patients before surgery. Simultaneously, Sister Agnes McGee of St. Vincent Hospital in Portland, Oregon established the first school of nurse anesthesia and began conducting six-month-long courses in the new field of anesthesiology. After World War II, it became clear that anesthesia would be necessary in many medical situations, with the responsibility of applying anesthesia still a nursing specialty. Because of this, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) get paid a much higher salary than regular nurses. Thus, gaining admission to a program that specializes in nurse anestethics can be very competitive. But it is certainly worth it. On average, CRNAs work approximately 40 hours per week and bring home the biggest paycheck of any advanced practice nurse, on the order of $127,000 to $150,000 annually.


Strict Prerequisites

In order to become a CRNA, many institutions require that you must first be a registered nurse (RN) with a bachelor’s degree. Students applying for a CRNA program should have a minimum GPA of 3.0 and in their undergraduate study to qualify. Students who have not met this minimum may consider taking additional classes in order to raise their GPAs. Before you can begin your course, many schools require students to sit for the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) to acquire a minimum score requirement. The downside to the GRE is that old scores are still recorded for retakes, in addition to the hefty costs incurred to take the test. Almost all the schools that offer a CRNA course require at least one year of experience working in an intensive care unit. Some programs accept emergency room, operating room, and other experiences, but many are not so lenient about this. The reason for this is that you will need to have experience with vasoactive drips, ventilators and other such equipment. This is experience that you can gain only by working in an ICU.

Applying and Acceptance

The first step to applying is to send in your application with payment for the processing fee. Once the initial requirements have been met, candidates will then be short-listed and called for an interview. Getting called for an interview means that you have overcome a major obstacle, but because of the competitiveness of the admissions, your performance during the interview will be critical towards your success. Like a job interview, you will be asked some standard questions such as the reasons for wanting to be a CRNA, or preparation steps that you have taken to prepare for this. Other questions could be based on your working experiences at the ICU, ER, or OR.

Course and Scope of Practice

If you get through all the hoops successfully, you can expect to be in the program for 24 to 36 months. Once you have obtained CRNA certification, you may work in a hospital, out-patient surgery center, group practice, or go independent. Compared to other nursing specializations, a nurse anesthetist receives the highest average paycheck. Interested in becoming a CRNA? You’ll need a nursing degree first. Begin your search here:

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