Like so many people in health care, a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) never really knows what kind of challenges a day will bring. Yet, he or she is ready to respond, equipped with the knowledge and skill to administer anesthesia and provide follow-up care to patients.
From small-town hospitals to large health care facilities, the need for these trained nurses is great. CRNAs know how to react in difficult medical situations, giving regional or local pain medication or even helping to induce unconsciousness in preparation for surgery.
A Day in the Life of a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
While a CRNA's days can vary both in pace and demand, they come to work ready to provide the best care they can, whether it be in the emergency room, the operating room, intensive care or elsewhere. Certified registered nurse anesthetists are constantly up and moving around, preparing for planned procedures, and responding to unexpected situations — like someone coming into the ER and in need of immediate surgery and pain medication. Providing epidurals to pregnant women is just one, albeit well-known, aspect of their job.
Typically, a CRNA starts their day early, often around 6 or 6:30 a.m. Their activities may then include:
- Checking on their anesthesia machine to make sure everything is in order
- Meeting with the physicians and health care practitioners to discuss the first arranged procedure of the day
- Responding to a call for help
- Talking with patients to learn about their medical condition and take into consideration all aspects of their care. They may ask questions about the patient's general health, any allergies they have or medications they take.
- Keeping track of the patient's vitals during a procedure, monitoring their breathing, temperature and other signs for stability
- Helping to wake the patient after a procedure and keeping an eye on them in the recovery room
Because there are so many different kinds of pain medication to give — from eye blocks to epidurals, spinals and post-operative pain blocks — CRNAs make sure to understand the processes at hand.
Important Characteristics for CRNAs
Certified registered nurse anesthetists need to be bright individuals who can use their nursing knowledge to provide comfort and pain care to a patient. They are typically good decision-makers, knowing the correct doses of anesthesia to administer in response to the general state of a patient. This requires them to be good communicators, not just with patients but also with members of the health care team who will be providing care during the day.
Typical Steps for Becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
Becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist means working toward an advanced degree, completing a certifying test and applying for state licensure. The steps listed below outline the process for pursuing a career as a CRNA:
1) Complete a master's or doctoral degree. A master's level education provides nurses with both clinical experiences and a classroom education. Nurses who already have a master's of science in nursing (MSN) degree may opt to pursue a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) instead. Students also may find bridge programs to move from a bachelor's level education to a doctoral degree.
- Before enrolling in any program, students need to verify that the program they choose is accredited through the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), as accreditation is important for certification and licensing. Students seeking graduate-level education for a CRNA career can find degree titles like those listed below:
- Master of Science in Anesthesia
- Master of Science in Nursing in Nurse Anesthesia
- Doctor of Nursing Practice-Nurse Anesthesia
- Doctor of Nursing Practice-Anesthesia
2) Seek certification. Graduates of nurse anesthetist programs need to seek certification to be able to apply for state licensure. Certification for CRNAs is available through the National Board of Certification & Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). Applicants do need to pass an exam — but the pass rate is high, reaching 84.5 percent for first-time takers in 2016.
3) Apply for state licensure. Nurses need to apply for licensure as an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) in the state where they intend to practice. Graduation from an accredited graduate-level program in the field and national certification are required. Applicants also need to have an unencumbered registered nurse (RN) license. More details about state licensure can be found on a state's board of nursing web page.
4) Obtain recertification. CRNAs do need to recertify through a process that includes continuing education credits, a "check-in" every two years and other requirements. Recertification details are provided on the NBCRNA website.
- Anesthesia (MS), University of Michigan, Flint, Accessed September 2017, https://www.umflint.edu/graduateprograms/anesthesia-ms
- Certification, National Board of Certification & Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists, Accessed September 2017, http://www.nbcrna.com/certification/Pages/default.aspx
- Nurse Anesthesia-About the Program, University of Iowa, Accessed September 2017, https://nursing.uiowa.edu/anesthesia/program
- Nurse Anesthetists, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2016-17 Occupational Outlook Handbook, Accessed September 2017, https://www.bls.gov/ooh/healthcare/nurse-anesthetists-nurse-midwives-and-nurse-practitioners.htm#tab-4
- Nurse Anesthesia Program, LSU Health New Orleans, Accessed September 2017, https://nursing.lsuhsc.edu/AcademicPrograms/Graduate/DNP/NurseAnesthesia/NurseAnesthesiaProgram.html
- Uniform Licensure Requirements, National Council of State Boards of Nursing, Accessed September 2017, https://ncsbn.org/107.htm
- News detail of Peter R. Carey, CRNA, ARNP, author of "Why I Became a CRNA, American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Accessed November 2017, https://www.aana.com/news/news-detail/2017/06/08/peter-r.-carey-crna-arnp