pitt nurse anesthesia dnp

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The Modern Nurse Anesthetist

Nurse anesthetists are on the front line of clinical care. Each year, licensed CRNAs administer 30 million anesthetics to patients in every situation imaginable. From childbirth and dentistry procedures to military trauma and delicate surgeries, nurse anesthetists are an integral part of a high-octane medical team. Working under the supervision of surgeons and anesthesiologists, they safely put people to sleep and – even more importantly – wake them up. In some rural hospitals, they may even be the sole provider of anesthesia services.

But their job doesn’t end in the operating room. In their work with patients, CRNAs are responsible for pre-anesthetic evaluations, anesthesia preparation and maintenance, post-anesthesia care, and a variety of clinical support functions. This critical support may include areas such as pain management, respiratory care, and emergency services (e.g. airway management). With great power, comes great responsibility, and nobody knows that better than a DNP-trained CRNA.

CRNA Licensure & Certification Requirements

Most nurses earn a DNP or DNAP in order to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Like other specialty titles (e.g. nurse midwife), this is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) qualification. Working in hospitals, physician offices, dental offices, VA facilities, private practices, and the military, CRNAs administer over 65% of the anesthesia in the United States.

In order to be certified as a CRNA and licensed in your state, you may be required to:

  • Earn an accredited bachelor’s degree in nursing.
  • Pass the NCLEX exam to become a Registered Nurse (RN) in the state in which you intend to practice.
  • Complete at least one year of clinical experience in a critical care setting (e.g. ICU, ER, etc.)
  • Earn a doctorate or post-master’s degree (e.g. the DNP or DNAP) from a nurse anesthesia program that has been accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA).
  • Pass the National Certification Examination (NCE) for Nurse Anesthetists offered by the NBCRNA.
  • Maintain your certification & licensure through continuing education.

DNP programs should clearly state that they are COA-accredited and able to prepare you for the national certification exam. If you can’t find the information on the website, ask the school to provide you with NCE pass rates and statistics on employment offers for graduates. Please check with your school and your State Board of Nursing for specific details on licensure.

It’s also important to note that the AANA has publicly stated that MSN programs should be phased out for nurse anesthetists by 2025. That means the DNP and DNAP will be the only degrees accepted for CRNA certification. You still have the option to earn an accredited master’s degree before 2022, but the window is closing fast.