Certified registered nurse anesthetists play a very critical role in health care and are among the field’s highest paying nurse careers. However, this demanding career may not be for everyone. CRNAs provide anesthesia to patients undergoing surgical procedures at hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, and physician offices.
Becoming a CRNA requires years of extensive training and education beyond many other nursing careers – the average training and education track to becoming a CRNA is about seven or eight years at a minimum.
All CRNAs must obtain their Bachelor of Science in Nursing or similar baccalaureate degree. Once completed, a prospective CRNA must have at least one year of full-time experience as a registered nurse in a critical care setting, according to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, in order to be eligible for a CRNA training program. Many nurses have more than one year of experience upon starting their CRNA training – the average is about three years of clinical RN experience for students entering a CRNA program, according to the AANA.
Prospective CRNAs must successfully graduate from one of the more than 120 accredited CRNA programs in the U.S. with at least a master’s level degree. The average CRNA program is about 24-51 months long. According to AllNursingSchools.com, by 2025, nurse anesthetists will be required to obtain a doctoral-level degree in nursing in order to practice as a CRNA. The site also describes CRNA training programs as “competitive and academically rigorous.” Students must have adequate transcripts, multiple letters of recommendation, and be able to pass a background check, among other program requirements. Therefore, as with most nursing careers, particularly advanced practice roles such as CRNAs, it’s paramount to know for sure that this is the right career for you. Ideally, CRNA candidates should be driven and motivated about pursuing a career as a nurse anesthetist, based on the arduous education and training prerequisites.
All the hard work pays off financially, as CRNAs earn an average annual salary of $181,040, and some make upwards of $230,000 yearly, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
“For anyone who is interested in the field of anesthesia, I’d recommend seeking out someone in the field and really picking their brain on what it’s all about,” states Everett Moss II, BSN, RN, SRNA. “[The field] has been somewhat limited due to COVID, but I’d recommend shadowing a CRNA to really get an inside view of what this wonderful field is all about.”
Moss is currently pursuing a career as a nurse anesthetist training at Emory University’s Nell Hodgson Woodruff School of Nursing. “The field of anesthesia is absolutely fascinating. It started with my love for intubation which is the process of inserting a breathing tube to breathe for a patient who is not breathing adequately,” Moss explains. “The body is amazing and the things that we do to provide safe and effective anesthesia is equally fascinating.”
He acknowledges that training to become a CRNA can be tough at times, and persistence is key. “It is not always easy to love the process. It takes work! It takes mental adjustment!” Moss advises his online followers, many of whom are aspiring nurses and CRNAs. For a glimpse into the daily life of a nurse and future CRNA, he posts updates about his professional passions as @the_paramurse on Instagram.
One key piece of advice Moss has learned so far about working as a CRNA: “It’s not how you put a patient to sleep, it’s how you wake them up.”