How To Become a CRNA: Nurse Anesthetist

Information Last Verified: October 1, 2021 by Jordan Fabel

When you decide to go into nursing, there are many specialties. One of those specialties is to become a CRNA or a nurse anesthetist. If you want to learn how to become a CRNA, you should understand the job duties first.

Understanding this career will help you decide if becoming a nurse anesthetist is right for you. Let’s look at the job duties of a CRNA and the steps to become a CRNA.

How To Become a CRNA: Nurse Anesthetist

Job Duties of a CRNA

As a CRNA, you will be an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN). Your main job duty will be to work as a nurse for the person administering anesthetics to patients. This means you will monitor vital signs and also provide post-surgical care.

It’s common for CRNAs to work in emergency rooms and intensive care units of hospitals. They might also work at clinics or in other outpatient settings.

Your main role as a CRNA will be to ensure the patient has the care they need. During a surgical procedure, the CRNA will be in charge of overseeing the anesthesia process, monitor the vitals of the patients, and provide care after the surgery. As a CRNA, you will likely do some or all of the following:

You may also handle some administrative duties, such as managing finances, ordering medications, or helping to train staff. Your actual job duties will depend on the type of employer you work for and the facility.

How To Become a Nurse Anesthetist in 6 Steps

Step #1 – Complete High School

If you want to become a CRNA, you will need to complete high school. It’s important to do very well in your science courses, as well. Scoring high on the SAT or ACT can help you get into a better bachelor’s degree program, too.

Step #2 – Get Your Bachelor of Science in Nursing

You will need to enter a BSN program to become a CRNA. Getting an undergraduate degree will take about four years and it’s necessary if you want to become a CRNA.

If you have received a bachelor’s degree in another field, you can finish your BSN much faster. It will take about 11 months to complete your BSN if this is the case.

Step #3 – Get an RN License in Your State

After getting your BSN, you will need to take the National Council Licensure Examination for Registered Nurses (NCLEX-RN) to get your RN license. After you pass the test and you have met all the state requirements, you will be ready to move on to the next step.

Step #4 – Gain Experience in an Acute Care Setting

It’s usually necessary to work in an acute care or clinical care setting for one year or longer before entering a nurse anesthesia program. This will help you to gain experience and strengthen your skills.

If you want to make sure you have a better chance to get expected into the CRNA program, you want to earn your Critical Registered Nurse Certification (CCRN). This can be done while working as an RN. With some programs, this will be required.

To get your CCRN, you will need to pass another exam and complete 1,750 or more hours working in critical care situations. It may be necessary to job shadow a CRNA, as well.

Step #5 – Get Your Master’s or Doctoral Degree

When you become a nurse anesthetist, you will be an advanced practice registered nurse. This means you need to get a master’s or doctoral degree.

A master’s degree will take about two years to complete. If you choose to get a doctorate degree, it will take four to six years. With a master’s degree, you can start working as a CRNA sooner. However, a doctoral degree will allow you to earn a higher salary.

Getting into a graduate program will likely require all of the following:

Make sure you understand the necessary requirements for the program of your choice.

Step #6 – Become a CRNA

After completing a graduate program to become a CRNA, you will need to pass one more exam. The National Certification Exam will take about three hours to complete. After passing this exam, you will be a CRNA.

Frequently Asked Questions About Becoming a CRNA

How much can I make as a nurse anesthetist?

According to Indeed.com, when you become a CRNA, you can earn an average salary of about $179K per year. This type of career can even earn you an average of another $27K per year in overtime pay. If you work for a top employer, you can earn well over $250K per year.

Tampa is the highest paying city with Boston, Baltimore, Nashville, and Miami all paying a higher salary than other locations, as well. Where you work and your experience will help to determine your actual salary as a CRNA.

What type of benefits do you get as a CRNA?

When you work as a CRNA, you will likely gain many benefits including health insurance, disability insurance, paid time off, and malpractice insurance. You will likely get a 401(k) and might get matching, as well. Some employers may provide relocation assistance, employee stock purchase plans, and referral programs. Other benefits may also be available, depending on your employer.

How many hours will I work as a CRNA?

It’s rather common for CRNAs to work two 24-hour shifts per week. However, they may work 8 or 12-hour shifts, as well. The 24-hour shift is the most common, however.

If you work the 24-hour shift, you will likely work two or three days per week. Those working shorter shifts will likely work four or five days per week. The hours you work and your shifts will depend on your employer.

How long will it take me to become a CRNA?

After you have finished your bachelor’s degree, you will need two years of RN experience. Then, you will need to complete a master’s degree or doctorate program. If you choose a master’s degree, you will need two or three more years. A doctorate will take four to six years.

In total, you will need eight to 12 years to become a CRNA. This includes all the necessary schooling and experience as an RN.

What is the work environment like for a CRNA?

It’s common for a CRNA to work under a significant amount of stress. If you’re dealing with a patient suffering from chronic pain, it can be rather emotionally draining.

As a nurse anesthetist, you will need to expect the unexpected. Acting fast is a part of the job. You will work in a medical setting and things can change very fast. Some CRNAs will need to work nights, weekends, holidays, and take on-call shifts.

How many CRNAs have Master’s degrees vs. Doctoral degrees?

You can become a CRNA with a master’s degree or a doctoral degree. About 52% of CRNAs have master’s degrees while 12% have doctoral degrees. With a doctoral degree, you can earn a higher salary and work in higher-level positions.

Where do CRNAs work?

Most CRNA will work in some type of medical setting. It’s common to work in a traditional hospital, pain clinic, ambulatory surgery center, or a doctors’ office. You might work in a private or public setting. It’s even possible to work in the U.S. military sector. Some CRNAs will work as independent contractors for hospitals and physicians.

What type of skills do CRNAs need to develop?

As you go through your education and gain experience as an RN, you will need to develop many skills. Acute care is very important, along with critical care experience. CRNAs should also understand airway management, patient assessment, anatomy, catheterization, physiology, pediatrics, medication administration, and customer service. Most of these skills you will gain through education and on-the-job training.

Finding the right career isn’t easy. If you want to go into nursing and make a very high salary, becoming a CRNA is a great choice. As a nurse anesthetist, you will need to work in high-stress situations, but you will get paid very well.

This can be a rather rewarding career. You might help patients relieve their pain. If you’re considering nursing as a career, learning how to become a CRNA might just be the right choice for you.

Jordan Fabel

Jordan Fabel

Covering different 'paths' that people's lives can take. Creative, foster parent, ticket dismissal, you get the idea. Exploring the requirements, certifications, exams, and obviously, approved courses along each path. I, personally, am the high school dropout son of two teacher parents. So how did I get here? That story takes more time. Coming soon!