What Is a Nurse Anesthetist?
A nurse anesthetist is a nurse specializing in the field of anesthesia. Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) are highly trained nursing professionals who administer anesthesia during surgeries, childbirth and trauma situations.
Their duties do not stop there. CRNAs also oversee the patient’s medical condition during the administration of anesthesia as well as during the recovery period. Typically, most CRNAs work in hospital settings. CRNAs often work during normal business hours, but may be on call, as emergency situations may require after-hours surgeries to be conducted.
What Education is Required to Be a Nurse Anesthetist
In order to become a nurse anesthetist, the individual must attend four years of undergraduate school and earn a Bachelor’s Degree of Science in Nursing (BSN). The student must then become licensed as a registered nurse. Entrance into a CRNA program requires the nurse to have at least one year of experience in acute care. Typical CRNA programs take two to three years to complete, depending upon whether the student is pursuing their Master’s degree (MSN)or a Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DPN) degree. There are approximately 100 CRNA programs in the United States; competition to gain entrance to these programs is fierce.
Upon successfully completing the CRNA program, the graduate must pass the national certification examination in order to become a certified registered nurse anesthetist.
How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Anesthetist
For a typical student, it will take four years to obtain a BSN degree. After completing requirements to become a registered nurse, the nurse must complete at least one year in acute care. Then completing a CRNA program offering a MSN degree takes two years at the least. Total time expected to complete educational requirements is seven years at a minimum.
Ranking of CRNA programs: Methodology Used to Determine Rank
Which CRNA programs are considered the best programs for training? Recently US News & World Report released its rankings of top graduate schools in the United States in various disciplines.
The methodology used to determine the rankings of the programs were based upon peer surveys. Synovate, a market research firm, managed the survey process. Educators at 113 peer nursing institutions were allowed to nominate up to 10 schools. The educators rated other programs on a scale of 1 “marginal” to 5 “outstanding”. After tallying the votes, only programs that were fully accredited and in good standing were given a published rank.
Since numerous schools received the same rank, the methodology used to determine the placement was based upon how many nominations each program received, so long as the program received at least seven nominations.
After the votes were tallied, here is a list of the top 21 schools, according to rank.
Top 21 Nurse Anesthetist Programs
- At the top of the list is the U.S. Army Graduate Program in Anesthesia Nursing, located at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, Texas. The program is open to nurses who are on active duty, serve in the reserves, and even applicants who are civilians so long as they meet the requirements of the application. This program was given the ranking of 4.0 out of a possible 5.0.Check out their website
- Tied for first is the Virginia Commonwealth University, located in Richmond, Virginia. This program also received a 4.0 ranking. This school was the first in the United States to offer the Master’s degree in nurse anesthesia.Go to the site
- Rush University in Chicago Illinois ranked third with a 3.9. This school is located in the heart of Chicago, only five minutes from the city center.Click to Rush’s page
- The University of Pittsburgh, located in Pittsburgh Pennsylvania, also received a ranking of 3.9. This school uses a revolutionary simulation program as part of their curriculum. This cutting edge simulator enables students to react to simulated surgical situations that are videotaped so students and faculty may study their reactions afterwards.Go to Pitt’s page
- The Baylor College of Medicine, located in Houston, Texas, received a 3.5 ranking. The program takes 36 months to complete, with graduates receiving a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.Check out Baylor’s program
- Also receiving a 3.5 ranking is the Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences in Bethesda Maryland. This school is located just a few miles from Washington, DC. This institution produces CRNAs who are interested in pursuing a career through the Department of Defense.Click over to USUHS’ RNA page
- Albany Medical College in Albany New York received a rank of 3.4. At least 10 medical facilities are available for the students’ clinical rotations, enhancing the range of options available for students preparing for a career as a CRNA.Go to Albany’s page
- Cleveland Clinic Foundation – Case Western Reserve University is located in Cleveland Ohio. The school received a rank of 3.4. This program takes 28 months to complete.Check out their program
- Goldfarb School of Nursing at Barnes-Jewish College in St. Louis, MO also received a rank of 3.4. This program takes 28 months to complete, and includes training through use of a high fidelity human simulator as well as hands-on medical training using cadavers.Click to Goldfarb’s page
- Wake Forest University – University of North Carolina–Greensboro in Winston-Salem North Carolina also received a rank of 3.4. For the class that graduated in 2012, 100% of graduates were employed within six months of graduation.Check out Wake’s Nurse Anesthesia program
- Case Western Reserve University, in Cleveland Ohio received a 3.3. Nursing students have the opportunity to work one-on-one with a clinical preceptor with expertise in nurse anesthesia.Click to them
- Duke University, located in Durham North Carolina received a rank of 3.3 as well. Duke boasts a 100% passing rate for the CRNA certification exam.Check out Duke’s page
- Samuel Merritt University, in Oakland, California achieved a rank of 3.3 also. This university is 100 years old and enjoys an extremely competitive learning environment.Go to their site
- University of Detroit Mercy, located in Detroit, MI came in with a rank of 3.3. This university boasts a faculty comprised of active nurse anesthetists. Students rotate throughout 20 different locations in Michigan during clinicals.Check them out
- University of Iowa in Iowa City, Iowa received a rank of 3.3. This school only offers the DNP degree (Doctor of Nursing Practice) and takes 36 months to complete.Check out UIowa
- University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, PA received a 3.3. This university boasts the nation’s only fully-integrated nurse anesthesia program.Click over to Pennsylvania’s program
- Georgetown University in Washington, DC received a 3.2. This program is completed in seven months, front-loaded so the student does clinical rotations during the second year.Go to Georgetown’s site
- Oakland University–Beaumont in Rochester, MI received a 3.2. Average class size is 20 students. The program takes 28 months to complete.Oakland’s page
- University at Buffalo–SUNY, in Buffalo New York, received a rank of 3.2. Part time study is available during the first year.Check out University at Buffalo’s program
- University of Maryland–Baltimore, in Baltimore Maryland, received a 3.2. Students begin clinical rotations during their third semester, returning to the classroom setting one day per week. Beginning in 2014, students will only have the option of working towards a DNP degree, as the MSN program will be discontinued.Go to their program page
- Wayne State University in Detroit Michigan received a rank of 3.2. This program is completed in a 24 month period. Students have access to 15 different sites for clinical rotations.Check out Wayne State
What Types of Classes Will Be Offered
Students will take classes on anesthesia topics such as advanced anesthesia, chemistry of anesthesia, and the role of an anesthetist. Typical CRNA programs provide one year of classroom education with the remaining time in clinical settings. Some institutions also use human simulators to train nurse anesthetists. Clinical rotations may include working in burn units, pediatrics and obstetrics.
The Future of CRNAs
The American Association of Colleges of Nursing has instituted a requirement that all CRNAs must have a Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice (DPN) degree instead of a Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia degree beginning in 2025. Any CRNAs who have completed their MSN prior to that date will be grandfathered in. Programs offering CRNA education must start procedures to switch their programs over from MSN to DPN beginning in 2015.
For any student interested in pursuing a career as a nurse anesthetist, determining which program to attend should be based on a variety of factors. Although the rankings granted to the schools are an important tool, a prospective student must look at other factors including location of the school, requirements for entrance, accreditation, standing and financial issues in determining the program that is best suited for that individual.