What is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)?
Nursing has a variety of specialties each with its unique characteristics and educational requirements. Nurse anesthesia is one of those specialties. A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is responsible for the administration of a patient’s anesthetics. In the United States, anesthesia services are administered mostly by two types of providers: anesthesiologists and certified registered nurse anesthetists. Anesthesiologists are physicians who have completed medical school, a clinical base year residency, and three years as a resident in an anesthesia program.
Certified registered nurse anesthetists are advanced practice nurses who have earned a baccalaureate degree, practiced more than one year as an acute care nurse, and have successfully completed a graduate-level nurse anesthetist program. These graduate programs have an average duration of 28 months but may be as long as 36 months. Except for the extra training that anesthesiologists receive in medical school and residency other than the direct provision of anesthesia, both CRNAs and anesthesiologists undergo similar classroom and clinical training in anesthesia care. There are approximately 39,000 practicing anesthesiologists in the US and over 34,000 CRNAs.
What are the main responsibilities of a CRNA?
A certified nurse anesthetist administers client’s anesthesia and monitors the patient throughout the surgery. The nurse is also responsible for ensuring a smooth patient’s recovery from anesthesia after the surgery is completed. The following tasks fall under the nurse anesthetist responsibilities: complete a physical assessment of the client; work with other members of the health care team to ensure that prior to surgery, the patient knows what to expect following the procedure and recovery from anesthesia; prepare and administer the specific types of anesthesia required by the procedure.
The CRNA also needs to maintain anesthesia during surgery and ensure proper recovery from anesthesia until the patient is transferred to a care unit. A nurse anesthetist will stay with the client throughout the surgery, constantly monitoring essential body functions and modifying the anesthetic to ensure maximum safety and comfort. It is imperative that the nurse anesthetist works harmoniously with other health care professionals to ensure the best client care and experience. Members of the health care team which work with the nurse anesthetist include surgeons, podiatrists, dentists, other nurses and anesthesiologists.
Do I need to be a nurse in order to become a CRNA?
If you are interested in attending a nurse anesthetist program you have to be a registered nurse. Registered nursing programs vary in length from two years to four years. Aside from having a registered nurse license there are additional requirements for acceptance into a nurse anesthetist program.
What does a nurse anesthetist program consist of?
A nurse anesthetist program yields a master degree. This nursing program lasts between two to three years and it combines classroom instruction with extensive clinical experiences. Lectures are focused on subjects such as anatomy, chemistry, physiology, and pharmacology. Hands-on experiences teach the skills and techniques necessary to administer anesthesia for various kinds of surgeries and obstetric procedures. Upon graduation from a nurse anesthetist program you will have a master degree in either nursing, biological and clinical science, or allied health. The type of master degree depends on each individual nurse anesthesia program.
What are the requirements for CRNA programs?
Most nurse anesthesia programs require that applicants satisfy the following requirements:
- Have a bachelor’s of science in nursing or another appropriate baccalaureate degree. All applicants interested in a nurse anesthetist program should keep in mind that admission in this type of nursing program is very competitive and that your overall grade point average is one of the key factors. Successful applicants have at least a 3.0 GPA.
- Hold a valid registered nurse license. Your registered nurse license can be from a different state than the state where the nurse anesthesia program is being offered. Once accepted into the program you will need to apply for a registered nurse license in the state where the school is located.
- Show proof of having at least one year of experience in an acute care environment. The preferred acute care environments are: surgical ICU, cardio-thoracic ICU, neurosurgical ICU, and burn ICU. If your work experience is in pediatric ICU, neonatal ICU, or PACU you may still have a very good chance of being accepted into the nurse anesthesia program.
- Have three letters of reference from professionals you work with. The preferred type of reference will come from work colleagues such as another registered nurse, a nurse anesthetist, or a physician.
What does it mean to be certified as a CRNA?
The Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists is the authority responsible for administering the national certification examination. Each student who graduates from a nurse anesthesia program has to pass the national certification examination in order to become certified as a CRNA. After the initial certification, a nurse anesthetist needs to obtain recertification every two years.
The following requirements need to be completed for recertification as a nurse anesthetist:
- possess a valid registered nurse license
- complete the required forty credits of continuing education
- show proof of practice of anesthesia during the two year period
- absence of any problems, mental or physical, that would be detrimental to the practice of a nurse anesthetis
In what type of setting is a nurse anesthetist employed?
A certified nurse anesthetist may practice in either the private or the public sector as well as in the United States military. The most common employment settings for a nurse anesthetist are hospitals, surgery centers, clinics, dental and physician offices. It is not uncommon for a nurse anesthetist to have personal contracts with hospitals and physicians. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, a certified nurse anesthetist has the legal right to practice in institutional or corporate settings, and be a part of individual or group private practice.
Independent practice by CRNAs is especially important in rural areas, where anesthesiologists are in short supply. CRNAs are the primary anesthesia providers in rural America and in some states, CRNAs are the sole providers of anesthesia care in nearly all of the rural hospitals. CRNAs may provide anesthesia in collaboration with other qualified healthcare professionals. When anesthesia is administered by a CRNA, it is recognized as the practice of nursing and when it is administered by an anesthesiologist, it is recognized as the practice of medicine but regardless of their educational background, all anesthesia professionals give anesthesia the same way.
What is the salary of a nurse anesthetist?
There is a growing demand for certified nurse anesthetists and a large number of attractive employment opportunities in a variety of settings. A nurse anesthetist earns one of the highest salaries in the nursing profession, with a median annual SALARY of $160,000. In recent years, nurse anesthetist salaries have increased to almost equal the salary received by a family practice physician. Even though there are great responsibilities associated with practicing as a certified nurse anesthetist, this is one of the most sought-after nursing specialty.
Is financial aid offered for nurse anesthetist programs?
Attending a graduate nursing program is always costly and the nurse anesthetist program is no different. However, most schools offer some type of financial aid to help students cover the cost of the program. If you would like to receive financial aid then you should contact the nurse anesthetist programs you are interested in attending and inquire about available tuition assistance, scholarships, or grants. Some university teaching hospitals offer nurse anesthetist programs at no cost to students as long as upon graduation and certification the student agrees to work at that hospital for a predetermined period of time.
Who accredits nurse anesthesia programs?
The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs is the only accrediting authority for nurse anesthesia programs. This council is responsible for the evaluation of all nurse anesthesia educational programs in the United States. Every year the Council on Accreditation will produce a public list of accredited nurse anesthesia programs. If you wish to become a nurse anesthetist then you should check the accreditation status of every nursing school you are interested in attending.