I feel like like many other careers, the healthcare field can be challenging.
I specifically work as a pharmacy technician at a hospice-only pharmacy. It’s a hard pill to swallow (no pun intended) that I only serve patients who are considered terminally ill. Especially when the patients range anywhere from a couple months old, to well over a century.
It gets to a point where your heart breaks for the family and loved ones of these patients, and its easy to develop a negative outlook on it. Instead, I altered my perception of my job as keeping patients as comfortable as possible during an uncomfortable time in their lives.
If I can help someone even in the slightest, I will gladly do it. The thought of being able to help people as they move onto the next phase is comforting. It makes me feel like my job has a good purpose.
Please see below and the link to more information about the Nurse Anesthetist Career and some of the advices from the
How to Become a CRNA
The rewards of being a nurse anesthetist are remarkable, and like anything worth having it requires a significant amount of dedication and commitment. Here are the steps you'll need to take in order to become a CRNA:
Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing – 4 years
Get licensed as a Registered Nurse - Eligible Upon Graduation
Gain experience working as a Registered Nurse in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) – 1-3 years
Apply to and Get Accepted by an Accredited Nurse Anesthesia Program
Attend an accredited nurse anesthesia program – 2-3 years
Take and pass the National Certification Examination for Nurse Anesthetists - Eligible Upon Graduation
Advice For Future CRNAs
We asked leaders in the nurse anesthesia field for their best advice for nurses who have the goal of becoming a nurse anesthetist.
Joseph A. Rodriguez, MSN, CRNA, President of Arizona Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Joseph A. Rodriguez, President of Arizona Association of Nurse Anesthetists. For those looking to join the ranks of CRNAs, a few pieces of advice. First, get used to thinking independently. Protocols, order sets, guidelines – all are useful and important – but you have to have the critical thinking ability, the knowledge, and judgment to make the right choice for the patient – in the crucial moments.
Second, get used to constant advocacy. CRNAs only exist because we’ve battled, for over 100 years, just for the right to do our job and take care of our patients.
Third, you must properly – and frequently - articulate your practice to others who likely know nothing about your practice. Few people (even surgeons, physicians, and nurses) understand the knowledge, background, and capabilities of CRNAs, and fewer will know that you have a deep understanding of perioperative anesthetic management.
Last, surgery and anesthesia are all about teamwork, not egos - the only measurement that ever matters - is the safety of our patients.
Anesthesia is the only field in all of health care to be “jointly owned” by 3 professions – CRNAs, physicians, and dentists. If you want to join us, you’ll have to make great personal sacrifices, and continue to advocate for your profession your entire career. But it’s well worth it – you’ll almost never find a CRNA that doesn’t love their profession and their practice.
Kris Rohde CRNA, MSN, BSN, President-Elect of the Nebraska Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Kris Rhode, President of Nebraska Association of Nurse Anesthetists. For nurses who would like to become Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, I recommend that one does a bit of research into the profession. I believe that it would benefit the nurse to shadow a couple different CRNAs in a couple different types of practice. See what it is like in a busy, metropolitan trauma center compared to a solo provider in a rural area serving many small communities. Understanding the different types of practice is key to understanding our profession completely.
I also think that a nurse working in critical care will develop skills that are crucial to our profession. Understanding laboratory results, ventilator settings, & EKG interpretation are just the tip of the iceberg for us. A successful CRNA understands all of those things, plus the pathophysiology behind it. Working in an ICU or other critical care areas will also help an RN develop critical thinking skills that are absolutely essential to a CRNA. This is something that is learned over time, not just in a year. I truly believe that applying for school when one is ready, not just after the minimum requirement, is important.
Shawn Seifert, MS, CRNA, President-Elect of the Maryland Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Shawn Seifert, President of Maryland Association of Nurse Anesthetists. The best advice I can give critical care nurses interested in a career in Nurse Anesthesia is to focus on leadership.
That is, seek opportunities outside of the purely clinical and be involved politically, socially, or even artistically.
These experiences will allow you to evolve into the advanced role of nursing leadership that Nurse Anesthesia demands as well as makes your application for school more impactful and likely to lead to an interview.
Marcia Kluck, MNA, APRN, CRNA, President-Elect of the Minnesota Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Marcia Kluck Presdient of Minnesota Association of Nurse Anesthetists. After you’ve made the decision and have gotten a minimum of two years of solid ICU, minimize your lifestyle and expenses for the short term while in school. This is to minimize debt. You will have time to decompress during school. But international vacations at this time are an unnecessary luxury (in my humble opinion and experience). You will have time and money after boards!
Cheryl L. Nimmo, DNP, MSHSA, CRNA, President of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Cheryl L. Nimmo, President of American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. For me, becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) took my career to another level entirely. I’m still amazed that the vast array of surgical, obstetric, emergency, and pain management procedures performed tens of thousands of times every day across the country is only possible thanks to the discovery and advancement of anesthetic drugs and procedures. There is nothing more personally rewarding than ensuring patients’ safety and comfort when they are at their most vulnerable. My advice for nurses who wish to become a CRNA is this: As you pursue your bachelor’s degree, attain the highest grades possible. It is difficult to get accepted into a nurse anesthesia program, so increase your odds with excellent academic work. After becoming an RN, you will need to obtain at least one year of experience working in an intensive care setting. My recommendation: Work for 2-3 years at a minimum before applying for nurse anesthesia school. Absorb advice and information like a sponge and become the best intensive care nurse you can be. Find a CRNA and ask if you can shadow him/her in the OR for a day. This will give you a total picture of what the career entails. Also, get your CCRN certification. Obtaining the certification shows that you are able to learn and retain new concepts and shows that you have the motivation to learn while working. Also, if you had a science course and your grades were not outstanding, take another science course before applying to show you are capable of the science courses in anesthesia school. This will position you well for the next stage of your career…as a CRNA! Good luck in your future career.
Gus Powell, CRNA, President-Elect of the Idaho Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Gus Powell, President of Idaho Association of Nurse Anesthetists. My best advice for nurses who want to become a nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is to have a plan and be willing to challenge yourself. That plan begins with focusing on academic success and picking the anesthesia program that is right for you, such as a program with an independent practice or regional anesthesia emphasis. In addition, it is very important to gain as much clinical exposure as possible while working as an RN and applying to anesthesia programs. I also feel it is helpful to find a CRNA mentor and shadow that person for enough time to really establish if this profession is for you. Becoming a CRNA is very rewarding and challenging. I have never regretted my decision to become a CRNA. Good luck to you!
Maricel Isidro-Reighard, CRNA, MSNA, DNAP, President of the California Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Maricel Isidro-Reighard, California Association of Nurse Anesthetists. My best advice would be that in order to be successful in the CRNA job market is that you have to check your pride at the door. There are many humbling moments that you will encounter, that you will need to rely on your current fellow nurses. You will learn how important it is to respect them in order for them to respect you. Our peers will have high expectations of us, and we have to know how to deliver. Don’t think that just because you have “CRNA” behind your name, that immediate ‘carte blanche’ is granted to you. It is, in fact just the opposite! We have to prove ourselves every single day! There is no doubt that in your CRNA career, you will need their helping hands and their moral support, and they will give it you almost 100% if they see that you did not shoot way too far into the stratosphere when you became a CRNA.
Christopher Bartels, CRNA, President of the Connecticut Association of Nurse Anesthetists
Christopher Bartels, Connecticut Association of Nurse Anesthetists. Take a job in a high acuity ICU and gain as much experience as possible by seeking out challenging assignments. Get your CCRN and never stop learning. Take a leadership position in or out of the workplace (e.g. a professional association). Come in early and be willing to stay late. Prepare your family and support system for the commitment required in nurse anesthesia school. Utilize AANA.com as a resource. Shadow a CRNA, save your money, avoid advertising your professional goals and stay humble.
PART TENA Day In The Life of a CRNA
The best way to truly understand the experiences, challenges, and rewards of being a CRNA is to follow a practicing CRNA through their day. We strongly encourage anyone interested in becoming a CRNA to participate in shadowing a CRNA, but before you do that, sit back and watch this helpful video that highlights a CRNA and takes you through her typical day.
What is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)?
CRNAs are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who administer anesthesia and other medications. They also monitor patients who are receiving and later recovering from anesthesia. CRNAs have acquired a minimum of a Master’s degree focusing on anesthesia, have completed extensive clinical training, and have passed a certification exam approved by the National Boards of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).
CRNAs care for patients from all walks of life. Some patients are scheduled for surgery, while others come in for emergency surgeries related to trauma or other potentially life-threatening events.
What Do CRNAs Do?
In many states, CRNAs work in complete autonomy. In other team models, they work with anesthesiologists, surgeons, dentists, and other physicians in serving patients who are to receive anesthesia. CRNAs usually work in hospital operating rooms (ORs), emergency rooms (ERs), intensive care units (ICUs), cardiac care units (CCUs), or outpatient surgical clinics.
CRNAs work with surgical teams, with most surgical procedures occurring from early morning (6 am) to late afternoons/evenings (6-7 pm), Monday through Friday. However, emergency surgery and unplanned cases can occur at any moment, thus it is not unusual to see CRNAs working evenings, nights, weekends, and holidays.
CRNAs have specific duties, which include but are not limited to:
Assessing patient response to anesthesia
Identifying possible risk to the anesthetized patient, including allergies and overdose
Administering precise dosages
Educating patients before and after receiving anesthesia
Nurse Anesthetists are a vital part of today’s medical facilities, and the need for CRNAs is expected to grow.
Nurse Anesthetist Salary
Nurse Anesthetist salaries are some of the highest in the field. Depending on the work setting and state where they are employed, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports that the median average nurse anesthetist salary in 2019 was $181,040.
In comparison, the average annual salary for an RN in 2019 was $73,300, less than half the earning potential of a CRNA. Note that conditions in your area may vary.