How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist
As a certified registered nurse anesthetist, you will be required to have a much higher level of education than standard nurses have. That is because CRNAs hold much higher responsibilities than other nurses. Becoming a nurse anesthetist can take six years or more, but for those that make it through the program, the rewards are well worth the effort. If you want to work as a CRNA in the future, read this guide that explains how to become a nurse anesthetist. You could only be a few years away from the job you have been dreaming of.
Step 0 – Determine If This Is the Right Career for You
Before you can learn how to become a nurse anesthetist, you need to figure out if this is the right career for you. Qualities of a good nurse anesthetist include:
- A genuine concern for the health of others
- The ability to learn new information, like how to work with a new set of equipment
- The ability to make quick decisions
- The ability to remain patient in stressful situations
- An extensive knowledge of anesthesia
Nurse anesthetists work in high pressure environments, so you have to be able to maintain your composure in the midst of immense stress. You must also be able to focus on multiple tasks at once while still understanding the needs of a patient. Nurse anesthetists are often asked to supervise other nurses that have to work with a patient before or after surgery, so you need to be able to work well with a team. If you think you can do that, you may be a perfect fit for the life of a CRNA.
Step 1 – Get an Education
Nurse anesthetists have to progress through several degree programs before they are able to actually work in the field. You may go through all of the following before completing your education:
- Diploma in Nursing (DN)
- Associate’s Degree in Nursing (ADN)
- Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
- Master of Science in Nursing (MSN)
The degrees leading to your master’s degree program will purely focus on nursing as a whole. You may take a few classes revolving around anesthesia, but the bulk of that learning will occur in grad school. Some students choose to go to work before they attend their master’s degree program, just so they can get a feel for the life of a nurse before fully committing themselves to nursing anesthesia. Your bachelor’s degree program will take about four years to complete, and your master’s degree will take an additional two years after that. Once you get through that educational process though, you should have all the wisdom you need to succeed in this career.
Step 2 – Pass a Licensure Exam
Once you have earned your master’s degree, you will need to take a CRNA certification exam administered by the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists. If you do not pass that test in the first round, you will have to retake it again until you are able to pass. There may be other certifications that you have to achieve to become a CRNA, but that largely depends on the state you live in. You could speak with someone on the board of nursing in your area for more information about the exact exams you will have to take.
Step 3 – Gain Work Experience
If you did not go to work as an RN after earning your bachelor’s degree, you will need to spend a year or two in the field before working as a nurse anesthetist. That ensures that you know how to work with patients and that you have an overall view of nursing in the real world. Most nurse anesthetists benefit from the hands-on training they get within that first year, so you may like it more than you think.
Step 4 – Find a Job
With all of the training behind you, the only thing left is to find a job opening in your area. This can be a competitive field at times, so do not be surprised if you get turned down for the first job you apply to. As long as you stay persistent in finding work, you should be able to find a hospital or clinic in need of your services. You just have to have the credentials to back that up.