A nurse anesthetist is an advanced practice nurse who works to administer anesthesia and monitor pain control among patients who are having surgical procedures. Nurse anesthetists may practice independently or under the supervision of an anesthesiologist to give medications to induce anesthesia, provide an adequate patient airway, monitor patient vital signs, and perform procedures to control pain, such as an epidural block. They are most frequently found in institutions that perform medical procedures, such as hospitals, outpatient surgery centers, and medical clinics.
Nurse anesthetists have advanced degrees within nursing and receive licensure after graduating from school. Nursing schools that train students to become nurse anesthetists typically expect students to already have an undergraduate degree in nursing and to have some work experience as registered nurses. Admission requirements to a nurse anesthetist program may vary among schools but may include letters of reference, a personal interview, or an essay explaining your career goals. These requirements may be expected in conjunction with your previous work experience. You may also need certification in cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) before being considered.
Programs are between 24 and 36 months in length and train students through classroom instruction, patient simulation labs, and practical experience. Graduates of the program will have achieved a master’s degree in nursing to become certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs). Following graduation, you must take a licensing exam in order to practice. Some schools of nurse anesthesia may have a portion of class work dedicated to preparing for the exam to help students feel confident to pass the test and move into practice as CRNAs.
Although many CRNAs have master’s degrees in nursing, the practice is evolving into requiring graduates to have even further training before licensure. Many schools are converting their programs to train nurse anesthetists at the doctoral level to fulfill potential future requirements as set forth by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing.
Like many other types of nurses, CRNAs work to help and serve others in an advanced role. They may work as part of surgical teams or as sole providers, depending on location, and because of their training and job requirements are often highly esteemed for their skills as nurse practitioners.