CRNA Programs & Schools
What are the basic steps to becoming a CRNA?According to the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Education Programs, there are currently 114 accredited Nurse Anesthesia programs across the country. These programs vary widely, but generally last from 24-36 months and require a combination of classroom learning and clinical hours. Completion of any of these programs is one of the final steps in becoming a CRNA. After graduation, students must past the National Certification Examination. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, there are some initial goals that you must reach before you will be considered as a candidate for acceptance into a CRNA program.
The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists lists the below requirements for becoming a CRNA:
- A Bachelor of Science in Nursing
- A current license as a registered nurse
- At least one year of experience in a critical care setting
- Graduation from an accredited CRNA program
- A passing score on the “National Certification Examination”
What does a CRNA program involve?Completion of a CRNA program will mean graduating with a Master’s of Science in Nursing degree** As with a bachelor’s degree in nursing, the program will consist of classroom time as well as clinical hours. Since a CRNA program is highly specialized, it is likely that the clinical requirements will be quite extensive. Students will undergo hands-on training to teach the skills necessary to successfully and safely administer anesthesia in all types of situations. Students can also expect classroom lectures to cover topics such as Chemistry, Pharmacology, and Anatomy (and how these topics relate specifically to Nurse Anesthesia) as well as professional communication and aspects of Nurse Anesthesia Practice. Upon completion of a CRNA program, students should be prepared to complete and pass the certification examination required by the National Board on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists. Successful completion of the examination completes the process of becoming a CRNA and allows the nurse to have the official title of CRNA and begin searching for and applying to jobs.
**In 2015 the AANA is requiring all CRNA programs to begin to make the change from a Master’s of Science in Nursing program to a Doctor of Nursing Practice program. CRNA programs and schools are to implement this change by 2025 at which time a DNP in Anesthesia will be required to become a CRNA. At this time, a DNP is not required to become a licensed CRNA.
Things to consider when choosing a CRNA School or ProgramHow long does the program take to complete?
CRNA programs can last anywhere from 24-36 months. Individual schools will vary so if the length of the program is important to you it is best to check the specific programs offered by various schools you may be interested in attending.
How much will it cost?
The American Academy of Nurse Anesthetists published a paper which gives the following information on potential educational costs for CRNA schooling. The median cost of a CRNA program at a Public school in 2017 was $38,243 and at a Private school was $61,345. This is simply a starting point and the range varies widely among schools- it can be anywhere from $15,000 to upwards of $180,000.
What are some differences between programs?
One major difference between CRNA programs which it is important to consider is the difference between front-loaded and integrated programs. Attending a front loaded program means that the majority of your academic and classroom work is done in the first portion of the program while clinical work is done during the latter portion. An integrated program combines classroom and clinical experience throughout the entire program.
When are the Application Deadlines?
With the school year usually beginning in August, application deadlines are often about a year in advance. It is important to start looking at the individual application deadlines for your school(s) of choice as soon as possible as they can come up very quickly and application is often a time-consuming process.
Is Financial Aid Available?
Generally, there are several different types of financial aid available to those looking to attend CRNA School. The most common options are federal loans or private loans. Many of the same government-backed low-interest loans that are available for undergraduate students are also available for graduate students. Most federal loans are often need-based. There are also scholarships and grants available from many different outlets. Individual schools will sometimes provide scholarships to incoming students as well. While CRNA School can be an expensive undertaking, many students are able to procure a combination of loans and scholarships in order to make it work, and the promise of a generous salary upon completion can help offset worries about the costs of school.
What do I need in order to apply to a CRNA School?Generally, the following are required to apply to a CRNA program, although some schools may alter or waive some of these requirements:
- A relevant Bachelor’s degree
- A current nursing license
- Critical care experience
- Letters of Recommendation
- Completion of the GRE
A Relevant Bachelor’s Degree
The first prerequisite to enrolling in any graduate program is a completion of a relevant bachelor’s degree. For a CRNA program, an applicant is generally expected to have a Bachelor’s of Science degree in Nursing. If you do not have a Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing, some schools will accept an Associate Degree in Nursing plus a Bachelor’s degree in a related field of study such as biophysical, biological, or behavioral sciences. Another general expectation is that the student maintained at least a 3.0 grade point average throughout their undergraduate career. While some schools may relax the 3.0 GPA requirements, admission into CRNA programs is often considered competitive and it is beneficial to have a high GPA to prove that you are able to handle to rigorous coursework that comes with a Master’s of Science program.
A Valid Registered Nursing License
Another prerequisite to enrolling in a CRNA program is holding a current license as a registered nurse. If your license is expired, you will most likely be unable to apply for admittance into a CRNA school until you have obtained proper license renewal in your state. You may also have trouble applying if you have had restrictions or suspensions of your nursing license in the past. Generally, your nursing license can be from a different state than the state in which you are applying to the school. If you are accepted into a program in another state, however, you may have to apply to become registered in that state as well once you begin your schooling there.
Acute/Critical Care Experience
Before being considered for admittance into a certified CRNA program, applicants are also expected to have at least one year of experience in a critical or acute care setting prior to their application. It is generally preferred that this experience be current, but some schools do accept older proof of experience as long as it has been within a reasonable timeframe (such as within the past one or two years). The specific definitions and requirements for the critical care aspect differ between schools, but generally, critical care experience is preferred to have been in an adult or pediatric intensive care unit. These include surgical, medical, cardiac, neuro, or pediatric ICUs. Some programs also accept Emergency Room experience but prefer that the applicant had experience at an ER with level-one trauma capabilities. These are general guidelines, but for specifics regarding the acute care requirement, it is best to look specifically at the Admission Requirement for your CRNA program(s) of choice.
Letters of Recommendation
Most postgraduate programs also require letters of reference or recommendation as part of the application process. In general, a letter of recommendation should be written by someone who you have worked closely with during your critical care experience or undergraduate work and who could best describe your abilities as they relate to your potentially becoming a CRNA. Some people to ask would be your direct supervisor, a co-worker, a CRNA that you have shadowed or worked with, a physician, etc. Some schools do have specific recommendation letter requirements such as specifying that at least one of your letters be written by a supervising MD. As with the acute care requirement, it is best to look specifically at the Admission Requirement for your CRNA program(s) of choice before proceeding with asking colleagues for letters of recommendation.
Graduate Record Examination
One final potential prerequisite for applying to many CRNA programs is the completion of the Graduate Record Examination or GRE. The GRE is a standardized test that is frequently required for admission into any type of graduate work or schooling. The emphasis on GRE scores will vary based upon the program you choose.
Will there be an interview for the CRNA program?As if worrying about all of the above prerequisites were not already enough, many students also have to prepare for an interview with the program administrators or faculty during the application process. If you are asked to interview at a school you applied to, this is a good sign as it likely means that the faculty has reviewed your application and thinks you may be a good candidate for admission. An interview request is not a guarantee of admission, but it does bring you one step closer. Although there may be some schools which do not require an interview, most CRNA schools will want to meet and interview you before they make a final determination about your application.
How important is the Interview?
According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, the interview is an important part of the application process because it allows the program administrators and professors to get to know the applicant on a more personal level: “Interviewers are looking to not only get to know the applicant on a clinical level, but also on a personal one…They want to know what the applicants are like out of the office. This not only shows how well-rounded a person is, but also helps the interviewer determine an applicant’s interpersonal skills.”
The interview does not need to be your biggest fear in the application process, because you can turn it into an opportunity to stand out. All of the applications which administrators review for CRNA programs look similar. Students are applying from different backgrounds, but most have similar levels of education and experience. The interview will give you a chance to show the CRNA program officials what makes you an ideal candidate for their program outside of your academic and work experience. This is especially helpful if you have less experience than others or perhaps had some problems maintaining a high GPA. The interview allows the interviewer to see the whole you and gives you the ability to demonstrate your passion and drive to become a CRNA.
What will the interview be like?
The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists describes several different types of potential interviews that CRNA candidates may face. Some schools will conduct two or three one-on-one interviews with students by several members of the faculty. These are helpful to officials who want to get to know candidates on a more personal level. Other schools have interview boards or panels, where applicants will be interviewed by several program administrators at once and asked a variety of questions. On occasion, CRNA schools will conduct interviews over the phone, but usually only in circumstances where traveling to the school is impossible for the candidate (such as active military duty).
Regardless of the type of interview you face, you will likely be asked a combination of clinical as well as personal questions. You should be prepared to answer questions about you educational background, your work experience, and the application paperwork which you turned in. With the clinical questions, the interviewers will want to confirm that you can demonstrate your basic knowledge of anesthesia and the CRNA program. They will want to know that you have done your academic “homework” and come to their program prepared to succeed in the field of nurse anesthesia. With the personal questions, they will want to hear about your particular accomplishments, attitudes, and motivations. These are just as important as your academic work; they let the administrators know why you want to become a CRNA and what you have done to set yourself up for success.
Will the interview include a written test?
Nursing schools which require a student to take the GRE before applying have often relied on the GRE writing section in order to evaluate a potential student’s writing skills; however, it is now becoming more common for a writing test to be given as part of the interview process for many CRNA programs. The details of this test vary between schools, but it is generally given as a way to assess how well a potential CRNA student is able to think about ideas and communicate them in a clear, professional, and concise manner without overwhelming grammatical or spelling errors. A written test may or may not be part of your interview process. When it is, it should be taken seriously as it is used by administrators to evaluate your professionalism, communication skills, and overall readiness for the program.
The Interview is an Opportunity
An invitation to interview with a CRNA school or program to which you applied is an honor. It means that they have reviewed your application and would like to know more about you. The interview gives you the ability to show administrators your unique talents and attributes. It also gives you the opportunity to elaborate on the information included in your application. It is important to come to your interview prepared and ready to show that you are capable and professional; but it is also essential that you find ways to make yourself stand out. Let the interviewer see your dedication, drive, and passion for your nursing career and show them that you have what it takes to become a successful CRNA.
Online CRNA ProgramsWhile some CRNA programs offered by leading schools contain online components, there are currently no CRNA programs offered solely online. The general consensus seems to be that the rigorous and intensive nature of CRNA training cannot take place online and must be conducted, at least partially, in person. Just because there is not a CRNA program in your area, however, does not mean that you need to rule out CRNA School all together, or that you must move in order to attend a CRNA school. There are some CRNA schools which have distance programs created for students who can commute to campus monthly or at some other interval. For these types of programs, lectures and assignments are completed online and students come together on campus for 3-4 day blocks monthly. After the classroom study portion of your CRNA degree is completed you will need to complete a number of clinical hours. These can often be completed at hospitals and medical facilities closer to your home. The distance between you and a CRNA school should not be a reason for you to rule out becoming a CRNA. A career as a CRNA can be highly rewarding, both personally as well as financially. CRNAs function as essential members of patient care teams and medical staffs in hospitals, clinics, and medical centers all around the country. Becoming a CRNA is a challenging but very achievable goal. It is important to consider all of the steps to becoming a CRNA before embarking on the journey. CRNA Schools Today is the best place to start your research. This site will help you learn more about being a CRNA, what it takes to become a CRNA, and what you should consider when choosing the right CRNA School or Program for you. Taking this next step forward in your career is an exciting time, and we will help provide the information and insights necessary for you to make the best choice for you.
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