How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist

How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist

Accredited nurse anesthesia programs only accept individuals who are currently a licensed RN with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree or other baccalaureate degree that is deemed appropriate.

In addition, the RN must have a minimum of one year of experience in an acute care setting.

1. Earn a Bachelor's Degree (4 Years)

To become a CRNA, you need to hold a BSN degree. A conventional BSN program takes 4 years to complete.

A popular movement now finds more and more colleges and universities offering students who already hold a bachelor’s in another field an accelerated route to nursing-program graduation.

These accelerated BSN programs take between 12 to 18 months to complete. If you already have your RN from an associate degree, you can do the RN-to-BSN program in 2 to 3 years, which can open you up to more opportunity and growth.

2. Complete a CRNA Program (3 Years)

Certified registered nurse anesthetist programs are master's programs that can take up to three years to complete. The programs include clinical training in a university-based or large community hospital.

Upon graduation, the RN must pass the national certification exam before you can begin practice as a CRNA.

Nurse anesthesia programs are not offered in every state, so you might have to travel or move to go to one of the CRNA programs.

Since the schools are super competitive, you want to make sure you complete volunteer work, have intensive care nursing experience, and excellent transcripts to give yourself an advantage.

Curricula of the programs is governed by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) standards, which means all CRNA students are provided with a similar scientific, clinical and professional foundation.

Most CRNA programs are pretty intensive and exceed standards. You need to spend time preparing your application materials which should consist of:

  • Bachelor's degree from an accredited college or university
  • Current RN license
  • Standardized Tests scores, such as the GRE or the MAT
  • Official Transcripts
  • Two or more letters of recommendation from two healthcare professionals who have supervised your clinical experience
  • Application and fee
  • English proficiency requirement
  • Resume listing critical care experience including type, location and duration

Once you get into the program you can expect to take intensive courses to prepare you for the field. The typical curriculum includes:

  • Physiology for Health Sciences
  • Principles of Anesthesia I, II
  • Physical-Chemical Basis of Anesthetic Action
  • Health Assessment
  • Practicum in Nurse Anesthesia
  • Biomedical Pharmacology
  • Biomedical Sciences for Nurse Anesthesia
  • Seminar in Nurse Anesthesia
  • Practicum in Nurse Anesthesia
  • Professional Aspects of Nurse Anesthesia
  • Clinical Practicum (noncredit)
  • Clinical Problems in Anesthesia I, II
  • Seminar in Nurse Anesthesia
  • Practicum in Nurse Anesthesia

3. Earn the Required Certification

The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) certifies the nurse anesthetist by a national certification exam.

The NCE for registered nurse anesthetists is a variable-length computerized adaptive test that takes up to 3 hours and is a minimum of 100 questions: 70 questions represent NCE content and 30 non-graded pretest questions.

The max number of questions is 170. The test is made up of multiple choice responses, multiple correct response questions, calculation questions, drag and drop, hotspot questions where you click on and highlight correct answers, and graphic and video questions.

The questions are presented one at a time on a computer screen. Each question may be viewed as long as the candidate wishes, but the candidate cannot go back to previous questions once an answer choice has been recorded; nor can the candidate leave a question unanswered.

4. Maintain Certification Through Continuing Education

This certification is not a one-time accomplishment, however. Recertification is also required every two years.

The NBCRNA re-certifies nurse anesthetists by reviewing their current licensure, their 40 required CE credits, and verifies that the nurse has been actively working in the field.