Advancing your career as an RN is encouraged to develop you as a nurse and as a person. Continuing education helps with that, but some nurses like to go a step further and become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. In 1956, CRNA credential was born.
What is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist?
A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, or CRNA, is a nurse who practices anesthesia. They care for patients before, during, and after surgical procedures. CRNAs are an essential part of the OR team.
Anesthesiologist vs. Nurse anesthetist?
The role of the CRNA is sometimes under the supervision of an anesthesiologist, who is an MD. If you want to become a physician, you would go to medical school and specialize in anesthesia. If you want to be a nurse anesthetist, you go to nursing school and can become a CRNA after pursuing advanced education. Anesthesiologist have a different model (medical) of training while the CRNA has a nursing model of training.
How do I become a CRNA?
The path to becoming a CRNA is challenging, including advanced education and intense training. Most CRNAs start as RNs in a BSN program. To enter into the CRNA program, the RN must hold the license to be a registered nurse. Therefore, you must pass your NCLEX before becoming a CRNA. Most schools do not allow a transfer right from nursing school. Instead, many require nurses to work in an acute care setting, like critical care or an intensive care unit.
Then, after the undergraduate degree and experience working on the floor, the student can enter a doctorate program for CRNAs which is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs. In this intense program, you are a student again, working in the clinical setting. There is also classroom time to test, apply knowledge, and learn different anesthesia techniques.
At the end of the program, graduates must pass the national certification exam. Renewal through CEUs is required on a biennial basis.
Where can I work?
Nurse anesthetists usually spend their time in the operating rooms. Though, it is more than that. Nurse anesthetists have four areas that they work in that are anesthesia related. Pre-anesthetic (pre-op). In this area, the patient is evaluated, consulted, and precautions are taken if needed in the operating room, such as alarming blood work, allergies, or prior medical history. Another area is the induction and maintenance of anesthesia. In this area, the CRNA is responsible for initiating the anesthesia for the surgeon to begin the case. Afterward, the post-anesthesia care. In this area, the patient is awakened, and the RN caring for the patient receives orders from the nurse anesthetist. Lastly, the peri anesthesia and clinical support area. In this field of work, the CRNA is responsible for the overall picture of the patients' pre, during, and after surgery. This area is the area in which the CRNA may be consulted if the patient is having problems after surgery.
Benefits of becoming a CRNA
One of the advantages of becoming a CRNA is the respect and autonomy you will have. There is a lot of responsibility, and in many rural areas, CRNAs "run the show" via independent practice. You will make a higher income than an RN. Most surgery centers and ORs run 8am-5pm, and many, unless an emergency, are off weekends and holidays. If you work in the hospital setting, you may be on call for the operating room, but only called in if there is a surgery to be done.
If your dream is to be in the operating room, running the show, this may be the job for you. The responsibility and training will make you comfortable to practice safely. Many states will require different anesthesiology practices for the CRNA vs. the anesthesiologist. Though, becoming a CRNA is a valuable step because you will make a six figure income.
Understanding the process of becoming a CRNA makes many nurses interested in pursuing it. If you are ready for training in anesthesia, working alongside a physician, instead of nurses, a CRNA career may be right for you!
American Association of Nurse Anesthetists
allnurses CRNA Forum