Nurse Anesthetist Programs

Anesthesia is a vital part of modern medicine. Without anesthesia, pain free surgery would not be possible. During the Civil War, nurse anesthetists became the first specialists in the field of anesthesia as they gave anesthesia to wounded soldiers. Today, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced practice nurses with Master's Degrees in this specialty. They are the sole providers of anesthesia in two-thirds of all rural hospitals and the main providers of anesthesia to women in labor and to members of the military. In the United States, 51% of CRNAs are women and 49% are men.

Anesthesia Mask.

To become a CRNA, there are both clinical and educational requirements. Prior to entering a program to become a CRNA, a nurse must have a Bachelor's Degree in nursing, must be a licensed Registered Nurse, and a minimum of one year's experience in some form of acute care (ICU or ER, for example). Also necessary are the completion of an accredited nurse anesthetist program and successful completion of the certification exam.

Required Education and Experience

The nurse anesthetist program is a Master's level program that requires from 24 to 36 months to complete, depending on each university's requirements. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, as of October 2009 there were 109 accredited programs in the United States, using more than 1,900 approved clinical sites. All of these programs include clinical training in university hospitals or in large community hospitals.

In order to maintain their CRNA certification, nurse anesthetists must also complete 40 hours of approved continuing education every two years. They must also document significant anesthesia practice, maintain all licenses and certify that they have not developed any conditions which would limit their ability to continue practicing.

The Nurse Anesthetist Program

The prerequisites for entering a nurse anesthetist program include these general requirements, although each program decides what is "appropriate" in each case. Individual programs may also have additional requirements beyond the following:

This is a Master's level program, requiring from 24 to 36 months to complete. In the classroom, anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, chemistry, biochemistry, physics, pharmacology and research are all studied. While there are many online nursing courses for other degrees and specialties, there are no online nurse anesthetist programs available.

In the clinical portion of the program, the student is provided experience in a variety of techniques and procedures that cover all types of surgery and obstetrics. As part of the program, the student will receive experience in the following skills:

  • Performing a physical assessment prior to administering anesthesia. This includes consultations and diagnostics.
  • Participating in preoperative communication with the patient, including obtaining the needed consents.
  • Preparing for management of anesthesia, including selecting and obtaining appropriate anesthesia.
  • Administering anesthesia to keep the patient free of pain.
  • Maintaining anesthesia during an operation. This also includes managing airway and pulmonary status during surgery. It would also include managing emergency situations that might arise during surgery.
  • Monitoring recovery from anesthesia.
  • Following the patient from recovery room to patient care unit and supplying the needed discharge information..

Additionally, a CRNA can choose to specialize within the field. Some options include pediatric, obstetric, dental, cardiovascular or neurosurgical anesthesia. Related specialties and credentials may be obtained in respiratory care and critical care nursing.

As can be seen, this is an advanced, intensive program. This is appropriate, given the nature of the practice. It can also be seen in the compensation. A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist has the highest average salary in the nursing field. In May of 2014, the average CRNA salary was $153,780 per year.


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