How Can I Become a Certified Nurse Anesthetist?

Explore the career requirements for certified nurse anesthetists. Get the facts about education and licensure requirements, certification and potential job growth to determine if this is the right career for you. Schools offering Nursing degrees can also be found in these popular choices.

What Is a Certified Nurse Anesthetist?

Nurse anesthetists are one of four types of advanced practice registered nurses, a title given to nurses with graduate-level education in a healthcare specialization. Certified nurse anesthetists use anesthesia to help patients manage pain resulting from surgery and other medical procedures. In addition to anesthesia expertise, they must have helpful demeanors when speaking with patients and the ability to make well-informed decisions in moments of high pressure. They work in hospitals, private practices, surgical clinics, dental offices or many other healthcare settings.

The chart below provides an overview of what is required to work in this field.

Degree Required Bachelor's degree in nursing followed by master's degree in nurse anesthetist
Education Field of Study Nursing
Key Responsibilities Provide general or local anesthesia during medical and surgical procedures, prescribe medication and monitor pain management care, operate medical equipment, examine patients and record patient history
Licensure and/or Certification Licensure as a Registered Nurse and certification as a nurse anesthetist are required
Job Growth (2014 to 2024) 19%*
Median Annual Salary (2015) $157,140*

Source: *U.S Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS)

What Would I Do as a Certified Nurse Anesthetist?

As a nurse anesthetist, you administer anesthesia during surgical procedures. Your duties would include performing physical evaluations, preparing proper anesthesia, monitoring patients' vitals during procedures and aiding in recovery after the operation. Prior to a procedure, you will consult with the patient to go over medical history and develop a safe and effective anesthesia strategy. During the procedure, you'll administer the anesthesia and monitor the patient's response. Afterward, you'll follow up with the patient, and you may prescribe medication to prevent post-operative pain during the recovery process.

What Education Do I Need?

Because you need to attend a master's program to become a nurse anesthetist, you should begin your nursing career with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) program. BSN programs combine classroom learning with supervised clinical experience and prepare you to take the National Council Licensing Examination to become a registered nurse (RN). After completing a BSN program and gaining RN licensure, you can apply to Master of Science in Nursing (MSN) programs for nurse anesthetists, though some programs may require that you have some experience as an RN. MSN programs also integrate didactic classes and clinical experience in the specific field of anesthesia to prepare you to begin work as a nurse anesthetist and take the exam to become certified.

How Do I Become Certified?

Because of the sensitive nature of work with anesthesia, nurse anesthetists must be certified in order to practice. The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists offers the nationally accepted Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) credential. You are eligible to take the certification exam after you have successfully completed your nurse anesthesia master's degree program.

What Are Some Related Alternative Careers?

There are several other types of advanced practice nurses, including nurse practitioners (NPs) and nurse midwives (CNMs). NPs may provide general primary care or specialize in the treatment of a particular demographic group, such as adults, children or the elderly. CNMs provide reproductive care for women before, during and after labor. Like nurse anesthetists, these professionals need to have master's degrees and be certified in order to practice.

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