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Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Career Guide

A CRNA (certified registered nurse anesthetist) has a high amount of responsibility and is required to be focused at all times. If you are one who can focus intently, even in stressful situations, and still maintain a high level of accuracy, then you may be well suited for being a CRNA.

As a CRNA, you will be desensitizing patients through anesthetic drugs and agents in order to allow medical surgeries or procedures to be carried out on them. Before administering the anesthetic agents, you will conduct pre-anesthesia evaluations in order to assess physiological or psychological attributes that could influence the drug used or the overall anesthetic plan for the patient. 

You will monitor the patient during the operation/procedure in order to ensure that the patient maintains a homeostatic condition and to avoid any possible harm to the patient from the anesthetic program. Post-anesthesia patient visits will also be required in order to confirm the wellbeing of the patient’s health and condition in response to the anesthesia drugs. 

This position will also be required to keep detailed information regarding each specific patient, from their anesthetic program details to all other records concerning their medical state. These records will be permanent, legal medical records for the patient and will be used to ensure proper care for the patient as well as medical studies and teaching. 

Some CRNAs will also be required to supervise medical students in training. In this position, you would provide guidance for medical, paramedical, and anesthesia students alike. You would also be responsible for making sure that students are advised on proper medical practices within the specific anesthetic program and that practices are consistent with legal medical practices as well.

Sample job description

The CRNA position is a vital role in our team and in the safety and health of our patients. Accuracy and focus is a must, as is a team spirit as we all work together for the well-being of our trusting patients. A great attitude is needed for a positive patient and work experience. Dedication to your role and continuing education will be needed in order to stay up to date with the changes in medical practices due to constant medical studies and breakthroughs. Ideal CRNA candidates will have previous experience working in a fast-paced environment with patients of all ages and genders.

Typical duties and responsibilities

  • Perform patient pre-, intra-, and post-anesthetic assessments
  • Inform patients of the anesthetic process, surgery, and recovery
  • Administer medication and anesthetic agents
  • Intra-surgery monitoring and adjustment of medications as needed
  • Monitoring and assisting in the recovery of the patient
  • Following the patients’ anesthetic program based on pre-, intra-, and post-anesthesia assessments
  • Input accurate information of the anesthetic process for each patient’s medical records
  • Inform and obtain consent from patients of the anesthetic program

Education and experience

  • Bachelor’s degree in nursing or related field
  • Registered nurse licensure
  • Must be a certified registered nurse anesthetist
  • Advanced practice registered nursing degree (diploma) must be presented at the time of hire

Required skills and qualifications

  • Appropriate bedside manner
  • Medical record keeping skills 
  • Experience working with a team in a high-stress situation
  • Proper knowledge of epidural placement 
  • Working knowledge of a computer 
  • Extensification and blood administration 
  • Experience with administration of inhaled anesthesia 
  • National RCNA Certification
  • Recent CPR Certification
  • Outstanding verbal and written communication skills
  • Exceptional motor skills

Preferred qualifications

  • Five years experience administering anesthesia
  • Experience in a hospital’s operating room
  • Performs in an independent manner 
  • Ability to maintain a flexible schedule based on each week’s surgeries

Typical work environment

Certified registered nurse anesthetists work in surgical clinics, hospitals, doctors’ offices, psychiatric institutions, the military, emergency rooms, dental offices, ophthalmologist clinics, podiatrist clinics, outpatient care centers, and respiratory therapy departments. It’s a physically active job position. Certified registered nurse anesthetists frequently communicate with team members. 

Typical hours

Certified registered nurse anesthetists may work full time or part time. The hours depend on the setting and practice, but for the most part, CRNAs will work more than 40 hours a week. Some settings may work 8 to 12 hour shifts, but 24 hour shifts are also common. This will require working on weekends and holidays as well.

Available certifications

Nurses who strive to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist need to be both licensed and have practice as a registered nurse in the United States. Then, you need to be certified as a CRNA through the National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). Furthermore, you will then need to apply for state licensure as an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) and have completed an accredited nurse anesthesia program. CRNAs will need to keep their certification and license in good standing. You will need to renew your CRNA certification every two years through the NBCRNA.

Career path

The first step in becoming a CRNA is to become a registered nurse by completing an approved nursing program and obtaining an RN license. You will also need to obtain a master’s degree from an approved MSN program with a CRNA program. It is possible to become an RN with only an associate’s degree, but a CRNA must obtain a BSN and master’s to qualify. By 2025, you may also need a doctorate’s degree to enter the field as a CRNA.

There are options for students who have already completed their bachelor’s degree in a different subject as well as those who are already an RN but have not completed their BSN. A current RN can return to school to complete an RN to BSN program that will qualify them for the next step in the CRNA career path. 

Similarly, those who already have their bachelor’s degree in a different field can obtain their BSN through an accelerated program that is created to develop a professional understanding of nursing practices in a much shorter time (only 20 months). After completing your BSN, you are eligible for the NCLEX exam. Passing this exam qualifies you to become licensed in your state for practicing as a registered nurse. Once you have developed adequate skills and acquired enough experience, you will be able to apply for a nurse anesthesia program in order to earn your master’s degree. Upon completion of this program, you will be able to become a CRNA.

US, Bureau of Labor Statistics’ job outlook

SOC Code: 29-1151

2020 Employment44,200
Projected Employment in 203049,800
Projected 2020-2030 Percentage Shift 13% increase
Projected 2020-2030 Numeric Shift5,600 increase

CRNA positions will continue to be necessary as they have been since anesthesia was approved for medical use. CRNAs will be an important part of physicians’ offices, general medical and surgical hospitals, outpatient care centers, other health practitioner offices, and colleges for the foreseeable future. There will seemingly always be a need for nurse anesthetists to administer anesthesia medications, manage patient health and reactions to said medications, and aid in the patient recovery process.