CRNAs are highly-trained healthcare providers who are specialists in their field. They provide outstanding anesthesia services to all types of patients at a wide range of facilities for any and every type of medical procedure where pain management is desired. CRNAs have a high level of professional responsibility as they must make quick decisions that can affect not only the success of a patient’s procedure, but potentially their future quality of life. Because of this high level of responsibility, becoming a CRNA requires meeting specific and demanding requirements for education and certification. As CRNA requirements can vary by state, this guide should be seen as a general overview of the main expectations and standards to become a CRNA.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists – First Steps
When considering a career as a CRNA there are several important factors to consider before making your final decision. First, you should do some research to find out what the job of a CRNA entails. One way to do this can be through job-shadowing a current CRNA, or interviewing a CRNA to find out what they do on a daily basis and what they like and dislike about their job. You should also gather information on your future earning potential as a CRNA as well as the employment outlook. CRNA Schools Today has helpful information on the types of tasks typical CRNAs perform, their potential salary options, and the job outlook for the field as a whole. Finally, it is important to delve into the specific CRNA requirements you will need to fulfill, and the specific steps you will need to take to become a CRNA. After looking at these things you will be more prepared to decide whether the commitment of time and finances is right for you. If you decide that you do indeed want to take journey towards becoming a CRNA you can count on CRNA Schools Today to help you research your options and next steps.
Becoming a CRNA
Below is a brief list of the steps which must be taken in order to become a CRNA:
- Obtain a Bachelor of Science Degree, preferably in Nursing (Bachelor of Science Nursing)
- Obtain a current license as a Registered Nurse
- Obtain at least one year of experience in a critical care setting (for admission into a CRNA program)
- Graduate from an accredited CRNA program
- Pass the National Certification Examination
This is a general overview of what it takes to become a CRNA. Each step in itself can be broken down into smaller steps, and each one will take time and dedication to complete. While completing all of the tasks on this list may seem like a daunting challenge, it is important to remember that a career as a CRNA can be a life-changing reward for all of the hard work that goes into it. CRNAs have high levels of job satisfaction and take great pride in what they do. It is a profession which requires hard work, a dedication to patient care, and a motivation to learn. It may be a challenge, but it can offer great dividends in personal as well as financial satisfaction.
CRNA School Requirements
In order to qualify to take the National Certification Exam to become a CRNA, you must first attend and graduate from an accredited CRNA school or program. There are currently 114 such programs located across the United States. While they vary in length and cost, they typically have similar application and entrance requirements.
Generally, the following are required to apply to a CRNA program, although some schools may alter or waive some of these CRNA requirements:
- A relevant Bachelor’s degree
- A current Registered Nursing license
- Critical care experience
- Letters of Recommendation
- Completion of the GRE
Application deadlines for CRNA schools can occur as much as a year before the next school year begins so when considering applying to a CRNA school, it is important to review all relevant deadlines and begin the process early.
CRNA Certification Education Requirements
The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) is a corporation which provides the credentialing and licensure exams for all CRNA hopefuls. Their stated mission is to “promote patient safety through credentialing programs that support lifelong learning.” The NBCRNA creates the testing material and coordinates the grading and hosting of the National Certification Exam. It also handles the re-certification application and approval process for all currently licensed CRNAs. The purpose of the NCE is to confirm that any potential CRNA has the skills necessary to successfully and safely practice in the field.
The NBCRNA lists the general eligibility requirements for taking the NCE as follows:
- Submission of a complete examination application ($725 fee)
- A record of academic and clinical experience from an accredited CRNA program
- A current unrestricted RN license
- Color digital photo
- Certification that RN license has never been subject to revocation, restriction, or suspension
- Certification that applicant does not suffer from any condition which might interfere with anesthesia administration or from drug or alcohol addiction.
The records of academic and clinical experience must be submitted on your behalf by your nurse anesthesia program. Once the NBCRNA receives the verification of program completion, they will send a notice within one to five business days to notify you of your eligibility to take the NCE.
Passing the National Certification Examination and being granted certification by the NBCRNA is the final step in becoming a CRNA. Applicants will receive immediate preliminary pass or fail results as soon as they complete the test, and official results will be mailed two to four weeks later once they have been certified by the NBCRNA. Upon receipt of the final passing test results, you are able to begin employment as a fully qualified CRNA.
CRNAs must apply for re-certification every two years in order to continue to practice. According to the NBCRNA, this re-certification requirement ensures that a CRNA has “maintained a current license to practice, has exercised his or her skills, [and] has participated in approved continuing education activities.” According to the NBCRNA, in order to be re-certified as a CRNA, you must meet the following CRNA requirements:
- Have completed a minimum of 40 hours of continuing education within the past two years by the August 1 re-certification deadline
- Be able to document substantial nurse anesthesia practice over the past two years
- Provide proof of current RN state licensure
- Certify that you do not have any underlying conditions that may prevent you from practicing anesthesia and have never had any revocation, restriction, or suspension on your license
The re-certification application fee is $110. Maintaining active certification as CRNA is crucial so keeping on top of your continuing education credits and submitting your re-certification application by the deadline is very important.
Character Traits for a Successful Career as a CRNA
While there are no particular personality traits that are required or guaranteed to produce success as a CRNA, those who are most successful and enjoy their careers likely have some important personality traits in common.
CRNAs are often called upon to perform many different tasks and can play multiple roles in patient care. Their primary task, of course, is that of professional anesthesia care provider. First and foremost, a CRNA must be well-trained, responsible, and clear-minded in order to perform their professional tasks successfully. A CRNA should be as safe and accurate as possible when it comes to patient care as the physical safety and well-being of the patient should be their number one priority.
On top of excellent physical care, CRNAs are also called upon to provide emotional care and support. A CRNA is often one of the only providers a patient will have contact with throughout the course of their procedure or surgery. From pre-operative consultation to post-operative maintenance, a CRNA often sticks with one patient through his or her entire procedure. Being a presence of comfort and encouragement before, during, and after the procedure is a challenge and reward to working as a CRNA. In order to take good care of a patient, a CRNA will provide for them physically but should also provide compassionate and comforting emotional and psychological support.
A successful CRNA should be able to combine the roles above in order to provide not only outstanding physical pain management to their patients but also excellent emotional support. A CRNA will place the well-being of their patients at the top of their priority list. Dealing with people and making good decisions during stressful and difficult times is not an easy task. In order to practice successfully, a CRNA should be compassionate, hard-working, patient, detail-oriented, and dedicated to a lifetime of learning.
While becoming a CRNA is a long process, try not to be discouraged. If becoming a CRNA is the right fit for you it will be well worth all of the hard work and long hours you put into making that goal a reality in your life. Finding support and encouragement from practicing CRNAs along the way may make your path easier and making sure to do adequate research before jumping in will help assure that you have a positive experience as you work towards fulfilling all of the necessary CRNA requirements.