How Do I Become a CRNA?

If you have a caring nature, favor precise measurements and have the discipline to succeed in advanced education programs to further your career, you might be wondering how to become a CRNA. CRNAs, or Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, are highly trained nurses who administer anesthesia to stop patients from feeling pain or make them sleep during inpatient or outpatient medical procedures. CNRAs most commonly find employment in general medical and surgical hospitals, specialty hospitals, outpatient care centers and doctor’s and dentist’s offices.

Administering anesthesia is a demanding task. Too little anesthesia can fail to prevent patients from feeling pain during important medical procedures, while too much anesthesia can cause serious harm. CNRA’s must be diligent in paying attention to patients’ vital signs, and they must accurately measure the doses of anesthesia they administer. They monitor patients recovering from surgeries that required anesthesia and may have to assist in emergency situations.

The first step to becoming a CRNA is earning the credentials to become a registered nurse, or RN. While candidates can become RNs after earning an associate’s degree in nursing or a diploma from a nursing program, aspiring CRNAs will eventually have to complete graduate-level education and so may wish to pursue a bachelor’s degree from the beginning of their education. During their undergraduate college careers, nursing students will learn chemistry, biology, anatomy and physiology and gain hands-on experience in clinical settings. To obtain state licensure and earn the title of registered nurse, candidates must successfully complete a test called the National Council Licensure Examination.

While becoming a registered nurse is an accomplishment in itself, it is only one part of the longer journey that aspiring CRNAs must take. As RNs, these nurses should seek opportunities to work in acute care settings, such as emergency rooms or intensive care units of hospitals. After they have gained experience in these settings, they must attend a nurse anesthesia program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs. These programs typically take two to three years of study and result in master’s degrees. As of 2013, there are 113 accredited nurse anesthetist programs across the United States. Upon completing their advanced education, CRNAs must pass a special certification exam.

Nurse anesthetists earn a median salary of $148,160 per year, according to the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). CRNAs can look forward to expanding job opportunities in the coming years. The BLS expects jobs for registered nurses as a whole to increase by 26 percent during the 2010 to 2020 decade, while all occupations are expected to see only a 14 percent increase in jobs. Specialized nurses, like nurse anesthetists, are among the candidates most likely to benefit from increased career opportunities, the BLS reported. If you pay close attention to details, have an empathetic nature and can work confidently under pressure, knowing how to become a CRNA could be your first step toward a rewarding new career in the field of healthcare.

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