How to Be a CRNA

Becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) is a major career change for a nurse. It isn’t like becoming a nurse in another speciality.  For the nurse who desires autonomy in practice and has the aptitude, it is very rewarding, and well paid.

A CRNA has to instill trust and establish a rapport with patients in a short amount of time, and make clinical judgment decisions quickly under pressure. They also need physical stamina and manual dexterity.

The hospital-based CRNAs I know are highly respected and trusted. Where I work, nurse colleagues who themselves are undergoing surgery often request for a CRNA to be their anesthesia provider.

What is a CRNA

Nurse anesthetists have been providing anesthesia care in the United States for 150 years, and are nationally certified to practice in all 50 states.  A CRNA skillfully manages a patient’s safe passage during surgery by balancing medications and carefully monitoring vital functions.

A CRNA is an advanced practiced registered nurse (APRN), who provides  anesthesia services to patients. A CRNA cares for  patients before, during and after  medical procedures or surgery.

They perform a patient assessment beforehand to assess if the patient is an acceptable risk for surgery. They prepare the patient for anesthesia, administer and maintain the anesthesia to ensure proper sedation and pain management. After surgery, they oversee patient recovery from anesthesia and care for the patient’s immediate post-operative needs.

CRNAs practice in a wide variety of settings including academic medical centers, community hospitals, day surgery facilities, pain clinics, or physician’s offices. CRNAs can either work side by side with anesthesiologists, or in independent practice. CRNA’s scope of practice includes all accepted anesthetic techniques including general, epidural, spinal, peripheral nerve block, sedation, and local anesthesia.

Nurse Anesthetists also have the option to specialize. Specialities include dental, obstetric, cardiovascular, pediatric, plastic, or neurosurgical anesthesia. Others also hold credentials in fields such as critical care nursing and respiratory care.

Current state debates over the extent of prescriptive authority in regards to pain management continue to result in redefining CRNA scope of practice by individual state legislature.

Check out the AANA website for all kinds of information regarding scope and job preparation.


According to the AANA, the requirements for becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) include:

—>  Bachelor’s degree in nursing (or other appropriate baccalaureate degree)
—> Registered Nurse licensure
—> Minimum of one year acute care experience in ICU (The strongest candidates have more than one year in ICU)
—> Completion  an accredited nurse anesthesia educational program
—> Successful completion of national certification examination

It takes a minimum of seven calendar years of education and experience to prepare a CRNA. The average student nurse anesthetist completes almost 2,500 clinical hours and administers about 850 anesthetics.


The US Department of Labor predicts that employment of CRNAs  is expected to grow 25% percent from 2012 to 2022, much faster than the average for all occupations. Growth will occur because of an increase in the demand for healthcare services. Several factors, including healthcare legislation and the resulting newly insured, an increased emphasis on preventative care, and the large, aging baby-boom population will contribute to this demand.


Some of the highest-paid advanced practice nursing professionals are CRNAs.

Salaries vary greatly by region, type of facility, number of years in practice and sub-specialty. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the median annual wage for anesthesiologists in May 2011 was $234,950.

When looking for a job and comparing salaries, it is wise to find out what benefits, if any, are included in the salary. Benefits can comprise up to 30% of salary. CRNAS can work as independent contractors, or as employees, often associated with a hospital.

Graduate Program vs Doctorate

Currently both the Masters in Nurse Anesthesia (MSAN) and the Doctorate in Nurse Anesthesia (DNAP) are offered in the united states. Although a doctorate is not currently required, the AANA supports doctoral education for entry into nurse anesthesia practice by 2025.

Tips for Nurses:

First obtain your Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing, then work at least 1-2 years to gain ICU experience. Next attend a CRNA program, which takes about 3 years. Time-wise, you are looking at around 6-7 years, which isn’t too bad, for a really good job in so many ways. In the meantime:

  • Get your CCRN, ACLS, PALS, ACLS
  • Work in ICU
  • Join SRNA Association

Good luck in choosing your career path. Is a CRNA in your future?

Until next time friend,

Nurse Beth

Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor, Occupational Outlook Handbook, 2014-15 Edition, Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners,
on the Internet at (visited August 14, 2015).


About Beth Hawkes

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Nurse Beth (Beth Hawkes, MSN, RN-BC), is a nursing career specialist and blogs at She's also the author of Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job. If you have ever submitted a resume or interviewed and never heard back, this book is for you. You will learn why never to say “I’m a perfectionist” when asked “What’s your greatest weakness?” You will be given insider tips and discover what nurse managers are really looking for in a candidate. Filled with real life examples and testimonials, “Your Last Nursing Class: How to Land Your First Nursing Job” truly is the ultimate guide to composing winning cover letters, essays, resumes-and landing a nursing job. Available at Amazon.