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CASE 10    |    Miss Patricia Verloren

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Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

What is a Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)? 

Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs) who administer anesthesia and other medications.

They monitor patients who are receiving and recovering from anesthesia. CRNAs have acquired a minimum of a doctorate 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.

How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist 

In total, it takes about 7-10 years to become a nurse anesthetist. Here are the steps you’ll need to take in order to become a CRNA:

  1. Shadow a CRNA 
  2. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing – 4 years
  3. Gain ICU experience – 1-3 years
  4. GRE & Certifications 
  5. Recommendations and Essay
  6. Interview Prep
  7. Complete Your CRNA program - 2-3 years
  8. Take and pass the National Certification Examination for Nurse Anesthetists - Eligible Upon Graduation
  9. Let’s take a closer look at what each step entails, including tips from Dr. Charnelle Lewis, DNP, CRNA. You can see her full explanation of how to become a nurse anesthetist in the video below.

    1. Shadow

    According to Dr. Charnelle Lewis, “Becoming a CRNA is not for everyone.” She recommends shadowing as your first step to make sure it’s something you enjoy.

    2. Earn your Bachelor of Science in Nursing

    You will need your bachelor’s of nursing or related bachelor’s degree as well as an RN license in order to be eligible for a CRNA program.

    Most CRNA programs have a minimum GPA requirement of 3.0, and acceptance is becoming increasingly competitive. Don’t let the G.P.A requirement scare you away - here are 7 Tips To Getting Into CRNA School, Even With a Low G.P.A. 

    3. Gain ICU Experience

    Nurse anesthesia programs prefer candidates who have worked in the intensive critical care unit (ICU) with adult patients. You should have a minimum of 1 year of experience working in an ICU unit, but Dr. Lewis says, “the average incoming class has approximately 2.5 years of ICU experience.”

    Examples of ICUs you can work in are: CVICU/CTICU, MICU, SICU, BTICU, Neuro ICU, PICU.

    Dr. Lewis adds that “some schools accept ER, CCU, and NICU, but it is best to check with the school to be sure.”

    4. GRE and Certifications

    According to Dr. Lewis, there are some schools that don’t require the GRE, but you’ll need a high GPA in order to be a competitive applicant for those schools. 

    The CCRN or critical care certification is generally not listed as a requirement but is preferred and will help give you an edge over other applicants. 

    5. Recommendations and Essay

    Dr. Lewis says that your recommendations are a crucial step in the application process. She recommends making sure you are “networking, making connections, and staying involved in your unit because you will need people to speak about your abilities and skills.”

    She also suggests keeping track of your accomplishments and shadow experiences. “Your personal essay is key to showing the admissions committee who you are and why you are right for the program!”

    6. Prepare for Your Interview

    While you’re waiting to find out if you’ve been accepted, Dr. Lewis recommends using this time to prepare for your interview, “Grab a copy of Duke’s Anesthesia Secrets and review your CCRN materials for the clinical portion.”

    7. Complete Your CRNA Program

    Earning your degree will take between two and three years and will provide both high-level classroom work and clinical practice.

    >> Related: Accredited CRNA Schools by State

    8. Pass the National Certification Examination for Nurse Anesthetists

    All nurse anesthetists must pass the CRNA exam prior to beginning to practice. The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nursing Anesthetists (NBCRNA) outlines eligibility, registration processes, exam details, and renewal procedures in its Examination Candidate Handbook.

    Once you pass the exam and have become a CRNA, you must maintain certification, which involves recertifying every four years and taking a new test every eight years. 

    Recertification requires the completion of 100 units of continuing education in a variety of areas, including pathophysiology and anesthesia technologies.

  10. What Do CRNAs Do?  

    In many states, CRNAs work with 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 risks to the anesthetized patient, including allergies and overdose
    • Administering precise dosages 
    • Educating patients before and after receiving anesthesia 
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