How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist in 5 Steps

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If you want to know how to become a nurse anesthetist, we have 5 steps to help you get there. The first is to get your BSN, which you can do through Marian’s ABSN program in as little as 16 months.

nurse giving patient anesthesia

Nursing is an incredibly broad field, meaning that nurses are needed across a wide variety of specialty areas. Some nurses enjoy positions in which they experience a little bit of everything that the nursing field has to offer, while others work in a specific specialty area that really sparks their interest. In fact, some of these nurses are so interested in their specialties that they end up pursuing advanced degrees to become experts in them. Marian University’s Accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing (ABSN) program sets up its students for success across all nursing specialties.

One of the most intriguing roles in nursing is that of the nurse anesthetist, which requires a high level of technical knowledge to be successful. These advanced practice nurses have advanced degrees and extensive training in administering anesthesia. If you have been dabbling with the idea of becoming a nurse anesthetist, continue reading to learn about the five steps you can take to get there.

What Is a Nurse Anesthetist?

Before diving into how to become a nurse anesthetist, you’ll need a better understanding of what exactly nurse anesthetists do. We’ll explore some of the typical tasks common to this field, as well as the salary and job outlook within this specialty practice area.

Typical Tasks

Nurse anesthetists work as part of a team, performing similar functions as anesthesiologists. The scope of practice for nurse anesthetists can vary, depending on regulatory and licensing factors including the state they practice in.

nurse holding anesthesia tube for patient

Most of your tasks will involve administering anesthesia and monitoring patients who are under anesthesia. However, you will also be responsible for taking care of patients prior to procedures. Additionally, you will likely perform intubations, administer medication, and intervene in the case of an emergency.

Salary and Job Outlook

If that sounds like a fun and rewarding career, it is important for you to have a solid sense of the position’s salary and job outlook before committing your time and energy to pursuing it. According to U.S. News & World Report, nurse anesthetists earn a median salary of $183,580. This median salary figure may vary depending on factors including your specific employer, as well as the state and area that you are employed within.

Not only will you earn an excellent salary as a nurse anesthetist, but you are also unlikely to struggle in the search for a position given the field’s high growth rate. As reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, the occupation is expected to grow by 40 percent through 2031. The investment in your education, earning your BSN through Marian’s ABSN program and going on for a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree (through an option like Marian’s Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist program), will be well worth it in the long run. Overall, choosing to become a nurse anesthetist has some great benefits.

5 Steps to Become a Nurse Anesthetist

Now that you know what to expect as a nurse anesthetist and what a great career it can be, let’s get into the five steps that you need to follow to become a nurse anesthetist.

1. Obtain Your Bachelor of Science in Nursing

To pursue the advanced education required to become a nurse anesthetist, you must first obtain your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN). Marian University offers an ABSN program for those who already hold a non-nursing bachelor’s degree. This program can be completed in as little as 16 months, so you can be on your way to step two in no time.

Most ABSN curricula comprise three core components: didactic coursework, skills and simulation labs, and clinical rotations. Some schools, like Marian University, offer an ABSN program in a hybrid format, meaning that students can complete classes online but must complete labs and clinicals in person. This allows for greater flexibility, as many students in these programs are non-traditional and have other responsibilities.

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2. Become a Registered Nurse and Gain Experience

Once you’ve graduated and have your BSN, it’s time to take the NCLEX and become a registered nurse. The NCLEX is notoriously challenging, but Marian University carefully designed its ABSN program to prepare students for the exam. Still, you must dedicate a substantial amount of time to studying for the exam to ensure that you are able to pass.

Once you’ve passed and applied for licensure, you’ll be able to work as a registered nurse. One year of critical care experience is required to enter into a Doctor of Nursing Practice program. However, some schools vary in terms of what defines critical care experience, so it’s highly recommended to confirm that your practice area as an RN meets accreditation criteria for your desired CRNA program.

While you typically can’t work as a nurse anesthetist to ensure that you are dedicated to the career path before going to grad school, you can shadow a nurse anesthetist. Not only will this allow you to learn things that you may not be able to in a classroom, but it will also let you get a feel for whether the position is a good fit for you. This may be a required step for some CRNA tracks, and building your professional network is also always a good idea. Asking insightful questions that demonstrate engagement during your time spent shadowing will help you stand out from the crowd.

a Marian ABSN student using stethoscope with patient in room

3. Complete a Doctor of Nursing Practice Program

Finally, you are ready to begin a Doctor of Nursing Practice program. While searching for a program, you’ll need to find schools that have DNP programs with a track or curriculum focused on nurse anesthesia. Be sure that your choice is accredited by the Council on Accreditation for Nurse Anesthesia Programs and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

A CRNA program typically takes three years to complete, with most schools offering one start date per year. In the case of Marian’s CRNA program, students can enroll in an annual May start date, with applications due October 31 of the year before. The curriculum is a total of 87 credit hours and provides plenty of opportunities to gain experience administering anesthesia across a full range of settings to diverse patient populations.

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4. Take Your Certification Exam and Get Licensed

Once you’ve graduated from a CRNA program, you will be ready to take the National Certification Examination offered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). Once you’ve passed the exam and meet all other requirements to be licensed in your state, it will be time for you to apply for licensure.

Remember that you will need to stay up to date on your certification throughout your career. You’ll need to meet continuing education requirements every four years and a more involved assessment every eight years. These milestone verifications are in place to protect patient safety and ensure that nurse anesthetists are up to date on best practices and new research developments.

5. Start Your Career as a Nurse Anesthetist

Congratulations! At this point, you will be ready to become a nurse anesthetist in a variety of settings. While the obvious choice is the operating room of a hospital, you may also opt to pursue work in labor and delivery departments, outpatient surgery and pain-management clinics, or even in dentistry.

smiling nursing student

Ready to Take the First Step?

If you are excited to begin your journey to become a nurse anesthetist, consider Marian University for your first step. Our ABSN program can be completed in as little as 16 months, allowing you to get a quick start in the pursuit of your career goals. Contact us today to learn more.