Are you interested in playing a vital role in the healthcare team? Do you want to leverage your experience as a nurse, while directly influencing the success of minor and major surgical procedures? If so, then you may be interested in exploring a career as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, or CRNA.
As one of the highest paying nursing specialties, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists are responsible for not only the management, but also the administration of anesthesia to patients. These highly trained professionals work in a variety of medical facilities, such as hospitals, clinics, dentistry offices and in delivery rooms. While these professionals must undergo an immense amount of training, and hold the very safety of patients in their hands, its challenges are just as bountiful as its rewards.
Top 5 Tips for How to Become a CRNA
If you’re interested in becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, then take a few minutes and read through these essential tips designed to simplify this often confusing career pathway and learn how you can become a CRNA.
Tip #1 – Earn Your Baseline Education
The first, and most important, step to become a CRNA is to earn a Bachelor in Nursing (BSN) degree from an accredited institution. Along with this level of education, you should also prepare to take and pass the NCLEX examination, which provides you with the Registered Nurse (RN) designation. Check with your State Board of Nursing to review the requirements for earning your RN license.
If you already have a bachelor’s degree in another concentration, and hold an active RN license, you’ll enroll in what’s known as an RN-to-BSN program. This accelerated program leverages your previous college coursework. Essentially, when enrolled in this type of degree program you’ll immediately jump into nursing core curriculum. Due to its accelerated pace, it’s possible to continue working while in school.
Tip #2 – Gain Clinical Work Experience
As with almost any other nursing specialty, to quality for advanced training you must hold a specific number of years as a clinical Registered Nurse. While this timeframe can vary based upon your state, in general, expect to work as an RN in a clinical setting for at least two to three years.
Typically, it’s recommend that this experience is in a critical care setting, such as an ICU in a hospital or in another intensive department. If you work in a hospital, speak with your supervisor regarding your future plans. By doing so, they may have a specialized program for licensed RN’s who wish to eventually earn their CRNA designation. Either way, you should align yourself with clinical units that involve surgical and anesthesia procedures.
Throughout this time, speak with as many current CRNA’s as possible. Discus your desire to advance into their position and ask for recommendations regarding jobs and continuing education courses. While you’ll be required to earn an advanced degree, you should use this time as a way to strengthen not only your nursing skills, but also your working knowledge of anesthesia. This will streamline your training and fortify your future success.
Tip #3 – Enroll in a Master’s Degree Program
Once you’ve satisfied the RN experience requirements for your state or desired graduate degree program, it’s time to enroll in a master’s degree program. These advanced level programs are specifically designed to leverage your previous training and experience, while introducing you into the complex realm of anesthesia.
Gather a list of several MSN in Nurse Anesthesia degree programs and select one that features a high graduate rate and career placement services. Typically, earning your MSN degree in this field takes roughly three years. Throughout your training, you’ll investigate the various concepts regarding anesthesia, such as equipment usage and management techniques.
As with your previously earned BSN degree, this program involves a combination of classroom lectures and hands-on clinical practice. During the first year or so, you’ll learn the varied concepts around physiology, pharmacology, pain management and anesthesia medications. The latter portion of the MSN program often involves hands-on clinical experience. This will be performed in a hospital or private practice setting, and you’ll work directly under the supervision of physicians and experienced CRNAs.
Upon graduation, you are then eligible to move onto the next step.
Tip #4 – Apply for CRNA Certification
After successfully earning your MSN in Nurse Anesthesia from an accredited university, you will need to schedule to take the CRNA examination. This standard certification examination is cultivated and proctored by the National Board of Certification & Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists, or NBCRNA.
Before scheduling this exam, make sure your RN license is active and you’ve successfully earned all the necessary work experience and training required. While this is a notoriously difficult exam, as of 2017, the CRNA examination featured a pass rate of 82 percent.
Exams are held in official proctoring centers throughout the United States. While you may be in a hurry to finally finalize this long process, don’t rush this part. Spend as much time as needed studying and preparing for the exam. In most cities throughout the country, there are CRNA study groups, which help prepare not only your working knowledge, but also your test taking skills.
When ready, schedule your exam. Upon successfully passing this examination, you will then be legally able to work as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.
Tip #5 – Continue Your Education
As with all other licensed and certified careers, in order to maintain your certification, you must perform a specific number of continuing education hours. Because this specialization is constantly shifting and evolving with technology, it’s imperative to stay current by taking courses and training programs approved by the NBCRNA.
The number of Continuing Professional Certification hours needed to maintain your certified status varies based on class type. For example, for Class A Credits you must complete 60 hours within four years. In addition to regular continued education training, you’re required to take the Continuing Professional Certification Examination every eight years. This is a mandatory requirement created to ensure all CRNAs remain current with methodologies and new techniques/modalities.