As a career path, becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) can be one of the most rewarding and intellectually stimulating pursuits an individual can undertake during their lifetime. It can also be a major test of one’s will and resilience.
As a job, the task of practicing as a CRNA is often referred to as “the best-kept secret in healthcare,” and with good reason: Few members of the healthcare community do as much to help patients when they are at their most vulnerable as Nurse Anesthetists, and their role in healthcare is rising to meet the demands for capable practitioners.
Some Reasons for Practicing in the Field
For most CRNAs, the reasons for undertaking the career are many: As a CRNA, practitioners can do much to alleviate the pain and suffering of their patients and are given special entitlements to provide expert anesthetic care for the sick. Moreover, CRNAs can do much to help underrepresented areas in healthcare and are often the first line of defense in treating pain in rural hospitals.
The social good that can be done by CRNAs is also a major draw to the field for many of its supporters and practitioners. The medical field is experiencing a shortage of hard-working talent as it struggles to provide for underrepresented communities and as President Obama’s universal healthcare system brings new (and often much poorer) patients under care. The need for talented CRNAs will surely increase in the next 10 years, and their job will be among the most important in the country in the next 20 years as the “baby boomer” generation moves from retirement to some of the illnesses that old age can bring. They already provide extensive help to patients in hospitals and provide some of the most vital roles in healthcare.
Why CRNAs Matter
This is because the proper treatment of pain in patients is often one of the most important parts of hospital or clinic functioning, one reason why so much training is involved for Nurse Anesthetists. For many patients, proper anesthesia is the difference between excruciating pain and daily functioning and happiness. As such, CRNAs are in a privileged position to provide excellent and important care to patients, and theirs is a vital role in society that carries with it extensive responsibility and the highest code of ethics in its practice. Proper use of anesthetics is both an art as well as a science, and each case can be unique and bring with it its own set of challenges.
The responsibilities of CRNAs are many, and thus require a strong foundation in training and education. Education for CRNAs tends to begin with a bachelor’s degree in nursing or a similarly applicable subject; licensure as a Registered Nurse; one year’s experience in nursing in an environment such as an emergency room (ER) or intensive care unit (ICU), and licensure via exams and interviews.
How Training for Becoming a CRNA Works
Bachelor’s programs in nursing will do much to give students a hands-on look at the career while providing them with a solid foundation in the hard sciences. The understanding of chemistry and similar subjects are particularly important in the use of anesthetics, as patients’ lives will often depend on the proper use of combined chemicals. A good grounding in the field that a bachelor’s degree can provide is thus an important step in the process of becoming a CRNA. Similarly, licensure as a Registered Nurse (RN) ensures that students and future nurses have properly learned their field and are up to the highest standards available to their chosen field.
A year spent in emergency rooms (ERs) and/or intensive care units (ICUs) will give future CRNAs a realistic appraisal of the demands of the medical field. Seeing a variety of patients and their conditions, particularly in times of great trauma, as will be experienced in settings such as ERs and ICUs, will show future CRNAs why effective anesthesia is so central to modern healthcare.
True to their roots in the treatment of soldiers during the Civil War, CRNAs deal with some of the most difficult cases in healthcare management. While the job is not for all, it does carry special appeal to those with a good set of personal qualities and a commitment to helping others.
Personal Qualities You’ll Need to be a CRNA
For example, a thorough understanding of yourself and your values is essential for succeeding at the job. Hours are often long and tasks extremely demanding. To know if you truly want to become a CRNA, try volunteering with local hospital or shadowing nursing staff, particularly in ERs or ICUs. Hospitals and clinics are often keen to teach new generations of future staff on how their job is done.
Qualities a good Nurse Anesthetist should have include perseverance (the ability to have a sustained focus on a goal despite any and all obstacles), honesty and integrity and the understanding that what is the right thing to do is not always the easiest(a lesson in life that can often be tested in the difficult environment of a hospital or clinic), a deep desire and need to help others when they are most vulnerable, a thorough understanding of their own work ethic (hours in an ER or ICU can be extraordinarily long, stressful and taxing), and above all else a passion for their work. Working in nursing with a minimum of passion can be a lot like running a car with a minimum of gas: It may work for a short time, but reaching your final goal is unlikely to happen. The career of Nurse Anesthetist has many rewards, but above all else the career must be its own reward for those who take it on as their life’s work.
As a career, few jobs can match the benefit and well-being to society that Nurse Anesthetists provide. If you’re considering a job in this dynamic field, understand that while the road from education to actual practice is long, for many in the field it is absolutely worth the hours they’ve sacrificed to provide help to fellow human beings who need it most. For many, this makes the job ideal, and they wouldn’t have it any other way.
For a list of accredited CRNA programs, see the link below: