Last Updated on August 12, 2023 by Oluwajuwon Alvina
What is A Nurse Anesthetist?
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Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) work as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who administer anesthesia to patients, typically during surgical, diagnostic, or obstetric procedures. CRNAs must hold a minimum of a master’s degree, although more employers prefer candidates who hold doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degrees. In addition to their advanced nursing degrees, CRNA candidates must obtain national certification in their field.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) projects a 26% job growth for these professionals between 2018 and 2028 — much faster than the average for all occupations in the state. On this page, readers can explore what CRNAs do, career and salary information for the occupation, and the education and experience requirements. Readers can review this page for additional information about becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist.
Frequently Asked Questions About Nurse Anesthetists
- What Does a CRNA Do?
Certified registered nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to patients. These professionals often work within teams alongside anesthesiologists. Before administering anesthesia, CRNAs conduct patient evaluations to decide the type and amount of anesthesia they need to use. They also discuss any existing allergies, health conditions, or medications to ensure proper administration.
- Are Nurse Anesthetists Medical Doctors?
No. They are APRNs. CRNAs complete advanced nursing degrees either at the master’s or doctoral levels. While anesthesiologists share some responsibilities with medical doctors, the scope of their practice differs.
- Are Nurse Anesthetists in High Demand?
BLS data indicates a projected 26% job growth rate from 2018-2028 for CRNAs, which is much faster than the average for all occupations in the nation. The anticipated growth results from an increase in the demand for healthcare services.
- Can Nurse Anesthetists Write Prescriptions?
Prescriptive authority differs depending on the state. In some states, CRNAs enjoy full prescriptive authority with the ability to prescribe medications to patients without supervision. Other states require a collaborative agreement or direct supervision of a practicing physician.
- Can Nurse Anesthetists Work Independently?
The ability for nurse anesthetists to work independently depends on the state they practice in. While most states allow CRNAs to conduct their work independently, some states require supervision or collaborative agreements. Professionals can refer to their state’s nursing board to learn more about the restrictions.
- How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Anesthetist?
The length of time it takes individuals to become certified registered nurse anesthetists depends on the degree path they follow. Earning a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN) and registered nurse (RN) license usually takes students about four years. Learners who complete a master of science in nursing (MSN) degree take around two more years and can then pursue their national certification to practice as CRNAs. DNP candidates take longer to fulfill their educational requirements.
Career and Salary Overview for Nurse Anesthetists
Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia and provide care to patients before, during, and after therapeutic, surgical, obstetrical, and diagnostic procedures. These professionals can also provide emergency services and pain management. CRNAs communicate with patients before procedures to discuss any medications they are taking and any allergies they might have to ensure they safely and appropriately administer anesthesia.
THESE PROFESSIONALS ENJOY HIGH MEDIAN ANNUAL WAGES OF $167,950, EXPERIENCING THE HIGHEST SALARY OPPORTUNITIES IN STATE, LOCAL, AND PRIVATE HOSPITALS.
During patient procedures, CRNAs monitor their vital signs, making adjustments to the anesthesia as needed. These professionals enjoy high median annual wages of $167,950, experiencing the highest salary opportunities in state, local, and private hospitals. Other high-paying industries for the occupation include outpatient care centers, offices of other health practitioners, physician’s offices, and educational services.
CRNAs should possess critical thinking skills to assess changes in their patients’ conditions and quickly decide on the most appropriate plan of action. These professionals should also maintain adept communication skills to collaborate with other healthcare professionals during procedures and interact with patients.
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Education and Experience Requirements for Nurse Anesthetists
Before nurses can pursue careers as CRNAs, they must satisfy the necessary eligibility requirements, starting with earning a BSN and obtaining an RN license. Earning a BSN typically takes students about four years of full-time enrollment.
EARNING A BSN TYPICALLY TAKES STUDENTS ABOUT FOUR YEARS OF FULL-TIME ENROLLMENT.
Once degree-seekers complete their bachelor’s program, they must complete and pass the NCLEX-RN exam to obtain their RN license. After earning their RN licenses, candidates must complete at least one year of full-time work experience, or its part-time equivalent, as a registered nurse in a critical care setting before they can enroll in an MSN. However, the average work experience of RNs entering nurse anesthesia educational programs is 2.9 years.
IT SHOULD BE NOTED THAT ALL ANESTHESIA MASTER’S PROGRAMS WILL TRANSITION INTO DOCTORAL PROGRAMS, MOST KNOWN AS DOCTOR OF NURSE ANESTHESIA PRACTICE (DNAP), BY THE YEAR 2025.
At the master’s level, a degree-seeker can often pursue a specialization in nurse anesthesia, preparing them with the specific competencies they need to prepare for their postgraduate careers. It should be noted that all anesthesia master’s programs will transition into doctoral programs, most known as doctor of nurse anesthesia practice (DNAP), by the year 2025.
Some nursing students continue their education further, enrolling in a DNP, or DNAP program. Once learners complete their graduate degree, they can seek national certification from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists.
SOME NURSING STUDENTS CONTINUE THEIR EDUCATION FURTHER, ENROLLING IN A DNP, OR DNAP PROGRAM.
The certification process requires each candidate to complete and pass a national certification exam, answering between 100-170 questions covering comprehensive topics. Professionals interested in advanced practice nursing in the nurse anesthetist specialty must earn licensure specific to their state. Candidates can reach out to their state’s nursing board to determine the requirements.
How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist
Becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)
Nurse anesthetists aid in medical procedures by administering anesthesia to patients. An individual interested in learning how to become a nurse anesthetist can review our guide to learn more about the process, including what nurse anesthetists do, where they work, credentials for the occupation, and licensing and certification information.
Nurse anesthetists experience high salary opportunities, with the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reporting a median pay for the profession at $113,930. The BLS also projects a 26% job growth from 2018-28 for nurse-midwives, nurse anesthetists, and nurse practitioners (NPs), which is much faster than the average rate for all other occupations in the country.https://164b864172526d3a7ca2cef1124ae8c1.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html
What Is a Nurse Anesthetist?
Nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia to patients and work with other healthcare professionals, including surgeons and anesthesiologists. Before they administer anesthesia, nurse anesthetists perform patient evaluations to determine how much and what type of anesthesia to use, considering any prior health conditions during their evaluations. Nurse anesthetists must complete specific training and certification in the discipline to work in clinics, hospitals, and private practices.
What Do Nurse Anesthetists Do?
Responsible for providing anesthesia and related care before, during, and after therapeutic, surgical, obstetrical, and diagnostic procedures, nurse anesthetists also provide emergency services and pain management. Before the start of procedures, nurse anesthetists work with patients to discuss their medications and medical history, and explain the type of anesthesia, its risks, and benefits, to obtain consent.
Nurse anesthetists provide patients with general anesthesia, relieving pain or discomfort during surgery and other medical procedures. They also administer local and regional anesthesia to numb areas of the body, staying with patients during procedures, monitoring their vital signs, and making adjustments to the anesthesia as needed. CRNAs may also act as support for the post anesthesia care team by making a postoperative visit to the patient to assess for any complications, and provide medication to alleviate pain, nausea, or other complications.
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Where Do Nurse Anesthetists Work?
Nurse anesthetists work in many different healthcare settings, including hospitals, private practices, and clinics. Practicing as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), nurse anesthetists collaborate with other healthcare professionals to provide safe, effective healthcare.
Nurse anesthetists most commonly work in hospital operating rooms, free standing surgical centers, emergency department trauma stabilization, pain clinics, and labor and delivery units. They may also work in physician offices providing anesthesia for podiatry, dentistry, or other minor procedures.
Steps to Becoming a Nurse Anesthetist
Before becoming a nurse anesthetist, each professional must satisfy certain eligibility requirements, including earning a bachelor of science in nursing (BSN), obtaining a registered nurse (RN) license, pursuing specializations, gaining admission to an accredited nurse anesthesia program, earning certification, and obtaining licensure.
1. Earn a BSN Degree
Before professionals can become licensed to work as nurse anesthetists, they must earn a BSN or other appropriate major and complete a master of science in nursing (MSN) or a doctor of nursing practice. Students should complete bachelor’s programs at regionally accredited colleges or universities. Earning a BSN allows each degree-seeker to enroll in an advanced degree and qualifies them for RN licensure.
2. Obtain RN Licensure
To obtain RN licensure, each student must first complete a BSN. In addition to the educational requirements needed for licensure, professionals must complete and pass the NCLEX-RN.
3. Pursue Specializations While Working as an RN in an Acute Care Setting
While working as an RN, professionals can consider pursuing critical-care registered nurse (CCRN) certification if they possess the required amount of clinical practice hours. A CCRN is a specialty certification for nurses who provide direct care to acutely/critically ill adult patients regardless of their physical location. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, a minimum of one year full-time work experience, or its part-time equivalent, as a registered nurse in a critical care setting is required.
4. Gain Admission to an Accredited Nurse Anesthesia Program
Before individuals can pursue licensure as nurse anesthetists, they must gain admission to an accredited graduate nurse anesthesia program. Students can explore opportunities across 121 different accredited nurse anesthesia programs, along with nearly 1,800 active clinical sites. Program requirements vary depending on the college or university but typically require an applicant to hold valid RN licensure, a bachelor’s degree in nursing, and minimum GPA requirements. Many programs may require an MSN.A minimum of one year full-time work experience, or its part-time equivalent, as a registered nurse in a critical care setting is required. The average experience of RNs entering nurse anesthesia educational programs is 2.9 years (AANA, 2019).
5. Earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Anesthesia (DNAP) Degree
At this time, some nurse anesthesia programs offer a master’s degree that qualifies the graduate for the certification exam. However, that is changing. In 2025, all CRNAs will need a doctorate in nurse anesthesia to enter the field. A few programs may still offer a master’s degree that meets criteria for certification until 2022.While CRNAs with a master’s degree will be grandfathered in, many degree-seekers choose to enroll in doctoral programs, which equip them with the most advanced skills and knowledge in the field and allow them to consider more career opportunities with higher salary options. Coursework in DNAP programs includes additional depth in topics such as anesthesia pharmacology, obstetric anesthesia, anesthesia pathophysiology, anesthesia biology, and geriatric anesthesia.
6. Obtain Certification from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetist (NBCRNA)
To obtain certification from the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists, professionals must pass the national certification examination. Once professionals complete their degree from an accredited program, they can satisfy the exam requirements, answering between 100 and 170 questions of comprehensive topics.
7. Obtain Nurse Practitioner State Licensure
Professionals who want to practice advanced practice nursing in the nurse anesthetist specialty must earn licensure specific to their state. Licensing requirements vary by state.
8. Find Employment
Once certified nurse anesthetists graduate from an accredited program and pass the certification exam for the specialty, they become eligible for entry-level employment in the field. During their job search, professionals can look for opportunities in specialized areas.
Becoming a Nurse Anesthetist FAQs
- What is the Difference Between a Nurse Anesthetist and an Anesthesiologist?Anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists both administer anesthesia to patients in medical procedures. The primary difference is the educational track that prepares them. Nurse anesthetists complete a BSN (4 years), an MSN (2 years), and with the new mandate a DNAP (4 years). Including an average of 2.6 years of critical care experience, this amounts to an estimated 11 years to achieve certification.Anesthesiologists are licensed medical doctors who specialize in anesthesia. They complete an undergraduate degree (4 years), medical school (4 years), an internship (1 year), and an anesthesia residency (3 years).
- Can I Get Licensed if My Degree is From an Unaccredited Program?To obtain licensure as a nurse anesthetist, individuals must complete all degree requirements from accredited programs at regionally accredited colleges or universities. Nurse anesthesia programs should feature accreditation from the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Education Programs, with 121 accredited programs in the discipline across the U.S. and Puerto Rico.
- Can You Get a DNAP Without a Master’s?Degree-seekers do not necessarily need to earn an MSN before enrolling in a DNAP program. Students can explore opportunities to enroll in MSN-to-DNAP programs, which allow students to advance into a doctoral program and complete the requirements of a master’s degree in one convenient program.
- How Long Does it Take to Get a Doctorate in Nurse Anesthesia?Nurse anesthesia doctoral programs can vary in terms of program length, depending on several factors. Enrollment type directly affects program length, with students who enroll part time taking longer to earn their degrees. Educational and experience backgrounds also affect the length of doctoral degrees. These programs often take 4-6 years to complete.Degree-seekers do not necessarily need to earn an MSN before enrolling in a DNAP program. Students can explore opportunities to enroll in MSN-to-DNAP programs, which allow students to advance into a doctoral program and complete the requirements of a master’s degree in one convenient program.
- What Happens if I Don’t Renew My APRN License?Renewal requirements for APRN licenses vary depending on the state and particular nursing specialty. Across the U.S., professionals who do not maintain their APRN licenses can not practice as an APRN professionally. CRNAs must practice a minimum number of hours and complete continuing education in the specialty of anesthesia each year to maintain certification.
Nurse Anesthetist Credentials
To become a nurse anesthetist, professionals must complete certification and licensing requirements. In the sections below, readers can learn more about nurse anesthetist licensing and how the requirements vary depending on the state, along with the nursing specialty professionals want to pursue. Additionally, readers can learn about national certification opportunities. Nurse anesthetists must obtain RN licensure and APRN licensure. In the sections below, degree-seekers can learn more about the specific requirements needed to pursue successful careers as nurse anesthetists.
Nurse Anesthetist Licensing
RN and APRN licensing requirements can vary depending on the state. During RN licensure, all states consider applicants’ legal and professional histories. Most states include a fingerprint-based criminal history check. Before applying for an RN license, each professional must complete specific educational requirements, including earning a BSN. To gain licensure, professionals must complete and pass the NCLEX-RN examination.
APRNs encounter different licensing requirements, depending on the specialty and the specific requirements of the state. The first step to earning APRN licensure is to earn RN licensure. An APRN candidate must hold an MSN or DNP and meet certification requirements specific to the certification agency that offers the specialization.
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing functions as an independent, nonprofit organization that enables nursing regulatory bodies to counsel and act together on matters of safety, welfare, and public health. The organization includes the development of nursing licensure examinations.
Nurse Anesthetist Certification
Nurse anesthetist certification requires each professional to obtain a BSN, along with completing courses in pharmacology, physiology, anatomy, and health assessment. After earning their bachelor’s degree, an individual can obtain their RN license and gain a minimum of one year of experience working as an RN in an acute care setting.
The next step on the pathway to certification is enrolling in an accredited nurse anesthesia program and graduating with a master’s degree. Upon completing their educational requirements, professionals must pass the National Certification Examination offered through the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists. Individuals must pay the NCE fee of $995 to complete the exam.
Nurse Anesthetist Resources
- American Association of Nurse Anesthetists As a professional association of nurse anesthetists, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists serves more than 53,000 members, including student, certified, and recertified members.
- Nurseanesthetist.org Nurse anesthetists can access this site to learn more about the history of the profession, access clinical documents, and review its online library.
- AANA Clinical Practice Resources AANA’s clinical practice resources provide professionals with information and tools relevant to clinical practice, including the code of ethics for certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) and information about pain management.
- National Board of Certification & Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists The NBCRNA administers the national certification exam that measures the skills, knowledge, and abilities needed to pursue entry-level nurse anesthesia practitioner careers.
- CRNA Careers As the official career center of the AANA, CRNA Careers allows professionals to search for job opportunities. Additionally, professionals can access career resources and learn more about AANA membership.