Nurse Anesthetist

Anesthesia care providers are responsible for the safety and well-being of their patients during medical procedures. To provide the best possible care, they must thoroughly understand how various types of anesthesia work and how they interact with the human body. They must also maintain a clear and concise line of communication with the surgeon and other medical team members. In many cases, anesthesia providers will also be responsible for providing postoperative patient care. This may include monitoring vital signs, managing pain, and providing emotional support. While most people think anesthesia services are primarily provided by medical doctors, certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) administer over 50 million anesthetics annually. 

CRNAs are advanced practice registered nurses who specialize in administering anesthesia and are highly trained and experienced professionals who work closely with surgeons and other medical personnel to ensure that patients remain safe and comfortable during surgery. To become a CRNA, individuals must earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing, gain work experience, and complete a doctor of nursing practice degree in nurse anesthesia.  They must also pass the National Certification Exam administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) and have a state license to practice. 

One of the most rewarding aspects of being a nurse anesthetist is the ability to make a difference in patients’ lives. Every day, nurse anesthetists have the opportunity to provide critical care to patients who are experiencing pain and suffering. Through anesthesia, nurses can help patients cope with their pain and anxiety, and provide them with the necessary support to undergo and recover from their procedures. In addition to the physical benefits that patients receive from anesthesia, there are also psychological benefits. By controlling their pain and anxiety, patients can focus on their recovery and feel more positive about their situation. 

Use the guide below to learn more about becoming a nurse anesthetist, job outlook, and top programs. 

Nurse Anesthetist Specializations & Degree Types

To become a nurse anesthetist, registered nurses must complete a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) in nurse anesthesia. In the past, RNs could complete a master’s of science in nursing, but in 2022, the standard was updated to a DNP. This degree takes approximately three years to complete. 

Aspiring nurse anesthetists can also complete specialized education programs focusing on a particular population, such as pediatric or adult and gerontology. 

Admissions Requirements for Nurse Anesthetist Programs

Most nurse anesthetist programs require applicants to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing. Some programs may also require a master’s degree or higher. In addition, all applicants must be licensed registered nurses in the state where they intend to practice. Most programs also require applicants to have a minimum of one year of full-time clinical experience as a registered nurse, preferably in an acute care setting. Many programs also prefer or require applicants to have prior experience in anesthesia care. 

Admission to a nurse anesthetist program is highly competitive, and meeting the minimum requirements does not guarantee admission. Successful applicants typically have strong academic records, excellent recommendations, and demonstrated clinical skills.

Nurse Anesthetist Program Accreditation

Nurse anesthetist education programs are accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). This accreditation is important for several reasons. First, it assures the public that the nurse anesthetist program meets high educational standards. Secondly, it provides a mechanism for continuous quality improvement, requiring programs to undergo periodic reviews. 

On-Campus Nurse Anesthetist Degree Programs

Arkansas State University – College of Nursing and Health Professions

The doctor of nursing practice in nurse anesthesia program at Arkansas State University College of Nursing and Health Professions is a 36-month program. This program recently transitioned to a DNP degree from a master’s of science in nursing. Graduates of this program are eligible to sit for the National Certification Examination (NCE) administered by the National Board for Certification and Re-Certification of Nurse Anesthetists (NCBRNA).

To be considered for admission, applicants must have a bachelor’s of science in nursing from an accredited nursing program, hold an unrestricted registered nursing license with permission to practice in Arkansas, Tennessee, Mississippi, and Missouri, have a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, and have GRE test scores. All applicants must also have one year of full-time work as a critical care nurse.  

  • Location: Jonesboro, AR
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)
  • Tuition: $45,000 for tuition for all three years

Keiser University

Keiser University offers a doctor of nursing practice nurse anesthesia program that prepares bachelor’s degree-prepared registered nurses to become CRNAs by providing them with advanced competencies. This program is accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) and consists of a 90-credit, 36-month program.

Students will be able to apply evidence-based techniques through the development of anesthesia care plans and hands-on operating room experience throughout their educational program. All students must complete a capstone project that concludes with completing a scholarly work demonstrating their ability to translate findings into practice applicable to nurse anesthesia practice.  The project can take several forms, including a poster presented at a national meeting, a manuscript submitted for publication, or a new clinical practice model.

  • Location: Naples, FL
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)
  • Tuition: $32,255 tuition for the entire program

NorthShore University HealthSystem – School of Nurse Anesthesia

Students at ​​NorthShore University HealthSystem School of Nurse Anesthesia can complete their doctor of nursing practice nurse anesthesia degree. This program is designed for adult learners who prefer an integrated curriculum. After completing core nursing courses, applied sciences, and introductory courses in pharmacology and principles of practice, students are introduced to the clinical practice of nurse anesthesia. 

The didactic content is integrated throughout the 20-month clinical residency and includes advanced principles of practice, evidenced-based research, and completing a comprehensive project. In addition to the clinicals and classes, students will participate in seminar presentations, clinical conferences, and professional meetings.

Clinical sites for this program include research institutions, ambulatory surgery centers, office-based practices, community hospitals, and academic departments. In total, students will attend clinicals at 18 different sites. Students can anticipate dedicating at least 60 hours a week to studies, lectures, and residencies. 

  • Location: Chicago, IL
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)
  • Tuition: $800 per credit

Hofstra University

Hofstra University offers a unique combined adult-gerontology acute care nurse practitioner (AGACNP) – certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) doctor of nursing practice degree program. Graduates of this program are prepared to sit for both the National Certification Exam (NCE) administered by the National Board of Certification & Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) as well as certification as an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner by the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC) and/or American Association of Critical Care Nurses (AACN). 

The program’s goals are to produce graduates who are competent certified registered nurse anesthetists. These professionals will be able to integrate critical analysis from the sciences and humanities into their work, improving health outcomes. In addition, they will be able to apply technology and scientific health information to coordinate personalized healthcare across the lifespan. Finally, they will demonstrate professionalism and accountability while providing patient-centered care that recognizes diversity.

  • Location: Hempstead, NY
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)
  • Tuition: $1,570 per credit

Columbia University School of Nursing

Experienced critical care nurses can complete their doctor of nursing practice nurse anesthesia at Columbia University School of Nursing. The first year of this program is devoted to advanced science courses, doctoral core courses, and basic anesthesia principles. 

The program begins with intensive clinical residencies during the fifth semester with advanced didactic coursework for the nurse anesthesiology role and doctoral seminars. During clinical residencies, the nurse anesthesiology resident gains increasing responsibility for patient care under guidance. The design of this program allows residents to acquire the skills necessary to move along a continuum, practicing to the full scope of anesthesiology practice upon graduation.

Admissions to this degree program are highly competitive. Candidates must have a bachelor’s or master’s in nursing,  a New York State RN license, and one year of ICU experience. Select candidates will also be required to complete an intensive interview process. However, graduates are well prepared to excel in this career, with 100 percent of the 2020 class passing their national certification on the first attempt. 

  • Location: New York, NY
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)
  • Tuition: $70,194 tuition for the entire program

Online or Hybrid Nurse Anesthetist Degree Programs

Due to the hands-on nature of providing anesthesia care, there are no entirely online programs. However, many programs offer the didactic portion of their degree through distance learning. Here are some top choices for hybrid nurse anesthetist programs. 

Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota

The Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota doctor of nursing practice in nurse anesthesiology is designed to prepare qualified registered nurses to become Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. Classes are offered online, in person, and in a blended format, depending on the course. The program thoroughly prepares students for the certification exam and how to be critical healthcare team members. 

Graduates can demonstrate leadership skills, advocate for improved patient care, provide compassionate, safe care, and apply well-developed interpersonal and communication skills with patients, families, and other healthcare professionals.

The curriculum of this program is divided into four core areas: science, leadership, scholarly projects, and clinical scholarship. An optional three-credit class in foundations in nurse anesthesiology is offered to help students determine if this program is appropriate for them. 

  • Location: Winona and Rochester, MN
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)
  • Tuition: $955 per credit

Duke University – School of Nursing

The hybrid doctor of nursing practice with an emphasis in nurse anesthesia at Duke University School of Nursing teaches students how to administer anesthesia to patients of all ages in various clinical settings. The nurse anesthesia curriculum focuses on developing critical leadership abilities for nurses to implement evidence-based treatment into practice, modify healthcare systems, and track outcomes for groups of people, regions, and communities. 

The program has a 100 percent pass rate on the CRNA certification exam, and after graduation, alums successfully find employment. Additionally, many graduates are politically active in organizations related to nursing. Admissions for this program happen only once a year in the fall and are very competitive. Approximately 125 applications are received each year for only 25 spots. 

  • Location: Durham, NC
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)
  • Tuition: $1,984 per credit

Drexel University – College of Nursing and Health Professions

The Drexel University College of Nursing and Health Professions offers a doctor of nursing practice degree in nurse anesthesia—a 39-month, 135-quarter-credit, full-time integrated program. The program’s first three quarters are full-time and entirely online. Students will then complete the remaining 30 months of study on Drexel University’s campus in Philadelphia. Graduates of this program are prepared to deliver competent, safe, and culturally sensitive anesthesia services in a rapidly changing clinical environment over the course of a patient’s life. 

The outstanding faculty in this program will help students advance their careers and grow as professionals with classes such as fundamentals of nurse anesthesia practice, pharmacology, practice problems and search for evidence, crisis management, and special patient populations.

  • Location: Philadelphia, PA
  • Duration: Three years and three months
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)
  • Tuition: $1,073 per credit

The University of Akron – School of Nursing

​​The hybrid nurse anesthetist doctor of nursing practice degree at The University of Akron School of Nursing consists of 93 credit hours, including core graduate nursing courses, advanced physiology and pathophysiology, chemistry, physics, basic and advanced pharmacology, and principles of anesthesia. This program takes three years to complete and blends online and in-person classes. The nurse anesthesia program graduates are prepared to provide patients with safe and quality anesthetic care. 

To be considered for admission, applicants must be experienced critical care nurses with a record of academic success. Other admission requirements include a bachelor of science in nursing, a 3.0 undergraduate GPA, a current RN license in Ohio, and a 300-word essay describing professional goals and educational objectives. 

  • Location: Akron, OH
  • Duration: One year
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)
  • Tuition: $1,896 per credit

Loma Linda University – School of Nursing

The doctor of nursing practice in nurse anesthesia at Loma Linda University School of Nursing degree prepares nurses to work at an advanced level, with expanded responsibility and accountability. The program focuses on clinical judgment, systems thinking, and evidence-based strategies. Graduates are eligible to take the National Certification Examination (NCE) offered by the National Board on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).

The classes for this degree program fall into four areas which are core nursing, nurse anesthesia concentration, DNP practice inquiry project, and clinical courses. This sequence is intended to help students transition from basic learning content through concepts and principles required for practice in a clinical practicum course in which they will learn and perfect professional clinical expertise.

  • Location: Loma Linda, CA
  • Duration: Three years
  • Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA)
  • Tuition: $850 per credit

How Long Does it Take to Become a Nurse Anesthetist?

To become a certified nurse anesthetist, one must first complete a bachelor’s degree in nursing and become a registered nurse. After that, they must complete a doctorate in nursing practice in nurse anesthesia. The length of the program varies depending on the institution, but most programs take about three years to complete. In total, aspiring nurse anesthetists can anticipate at least seven years of education post-high school.

How To Become a Nurse Anesthetist – Step-by-Step Guide 

Step 1: Graduate from High School or Complete a GED (Four Years)

Graduating from high school or earning a GED is required to become a nurse anesthetist. Nursing is a highly skilled and demanding profession, so nurses need a solid foundation in basic sciences such as anatomy and physiology to succeed. Admission to nursing programs is very competitive, so students should endeavor to maintain a high GPA and take advanced and honors classes to help their application stand out. 

Step 2: Complete a Nursing Program (Four Years)

To become a nurse anesthetist, one must first complete a bachelor of science in nursing. This degree provides students with the necessary knowledge and skills to deliver safe and effective patient care. The coursework covers anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. In addition, students gain experience in clinical settings, which prepares them for the rigors of working in an anesthesia department.

Step 3: Pass NCLEX (Timelines Vary)

The National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX) is a computer-adaptive test that determines whether or not an individual has the knowledge and skills necessary to become a registered nurse. All states require that applicants for a registered nursing license pass this exam.

Step 4: Apply for State Licensure (Timelines Varies)

State licensure is required to practice nursing. Once education and testing requirements have been met, candidates will apply to their state nursing board. The board will review the nurse’s application and determine if the nurse meets all requirements for licensure. More details can be found in the certification and licensure section below. 

Step 5: Gain Work Experience (At least one year)

Most nurse anesthetist education programs require applicants to have at least one year of work experience as registered nurses in a critical care setting. 

Step 6: Complete Nurse Anesthetist Education (Three years)

All nurse anesthetists must complete a doctor of nursing practice nurse anesthetist degree. These programs typically take three years to complete and include extensive clinical experiences to provide students with the hands-on skills they need to provide the highest level of patient care. 

Step 7: Earn Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist Certification (Timelines Vary)

To become a certified nurse anesthetist, nurses must pass the National Certification Exam administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). Earning the CRNA credential signifies that a nurse has met the highest standards of education and clinical practice, and it assures patients that they are receiving the best possible anesthetic care.

Step 8: Obtain a License to Practice as a CRNA (Timelines Vary)

CRNAs are required to be licensed in all 50 states. In some states, there is a separate license for CRNAs, while in others, they must simply be licensed as advanced practice nurse practitioners. Requirements will vary by state. More information can be found in the certification and licensure section below.

What Do Nurse Anesthetists Do?

Nurse anesthetists work in various settings, including hospitals, ambulatory surgical centers, dental offices, and pain clinics. They may also work in other healthcare settings, such as home health agencies, hospices, and long-term care facilities. In some states, nurse anesthetists may work in prisons and other correctional facilities. Nurse anesthetists typically work full-time; however, some may work part-time or per-diem. Those who work in surgery centers or other outpatient facilities may have evening or weekend hours. 

Job duties for nurse anesthetists will vary based on their place of employment and the population they work with. Here are some typical responsibilities:

  • Administering IV pain medications and anesthesia
  • Monitoring patients during surgery
  • Instructing patients on postoperative care
  • Evaluating the patient’s general health condition before surgery
  • Developing patient pain management plans in coordination with other healthcare provides

Nurse Anesthetist Certifications & Licensure

Nurse anesthetists must earn a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) certification. To do so, they must pass the National Certification Exam (NCE) administered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). This exam consists of 100 to 170 questions and must be completed in three hours. The exam costs $995. Topics covered include:

  • Anatomy, physiology, and pathology
  • Pharmacology
  • Applied chemistry, biochemistry, physics
  • Anesthetic delivery systems
  • Airway equipment
  • Monitoring devices
  • Imaging
  • Ethical considerations
  • Legal Issues
  • Safety and Wellness
  • Anesthesia for special populations

To be eligible to sit for the NCE exam, candidates must have completed a nurse anesthesia educational program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) in the past two years and hold an unrestricted registered nursing license.

In addition to national certification, CRNAs must hold a license to practice in their state. Many states require that CRNAs have advanced practice nursing and registered nursing licenses. Requirements will vary by state, so candidates should contact their local board to ensure they have the necessary qualification. For example, in Washington, the requirements to be a CRNA include:

  • An active RN license in Washington
  • Proof of national certification (CRNA) 
  • If the candidate graduated more than one year ago, they must provide proof of 250 clinical practice hours as an APRN in the last two years
  • Official transcripts from all nursing education programs
  • An FBI Background Check

How Much Do Nurse Anesthetists Make?

The 43,950 nurse anesthetists in the US earn $202,470 per year on average, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS May 2021). The percentiles for wages are:

  • 10th percentile: $131,840
  • 25th percentile: $164,860
  • 50th  percentile (median): $195,610
  • 75th percentile: >$208,000 per year
  • 90th percentile: >$208,000 per year

Please note that the BLS does not give specific figures for ranges over $208,000.

Nurse Anesthetist Career Alternatives

Here are some alternatives to a career as a nurse anesthetist: 

Become a Nurse Practitioner

Nurse practitioners can diagnose and treat illnesses, order and interpret diagnostic tests, and prescribe medications. They also provide preventive care, such as immunizations and health screenings. In addition, nurse practitioners offer guidance on healthy lifestyle choices and can help patients manage chronic conditions. Nurse practitioners typically work in primary care settings, such as doctor’s offices, clinics, and hospitals. Some nurse practitioners work in specialty care settings, such as walk-in clinics, nursing homes, and surgery centers.

  • Typical Education: Master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP)
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Academy of Nurse Practitioners (AANP), American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC, and others

Become a Physician Assistant

Physician assistants can perform many of the same tasks physicians can, including conducting physical exams, ordering diagnostic tests, making a diagnosis, treating illnesses, and providing patient education and counseling. PAs also assist in surgery and perform other medical procedures. They may work in all areas of medicine, including primary care, emergency medicine, surgery, and psychiatry. 

  • Typical Education: Master’s degree
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: National Commission on Certification of Physician Assistants

Become a Certified Nurse Midwife

A certified nurse midwife (CNM) is a medical professional who provides comprehensive primary care for women throughout their lives, from adolescence through menopause. In addition to providing well-woman care and family planning services, CNMs are trained to provide gynecological care, deliver babies, and manage complex pregnancies. They also provide essential care for newborns and mothers during the postpartum period.

  • Typical Education: Master’s of science in nursing (MSN) or doctor of nursing practice (DNP)
  • Licensing or Certifying Organization: American Midwifery Certification Board (ACMB)
Kimmy Gustafson

Kimmy Gustafson

Writer

Kimmy is a freelance writer with extensive experience writing about healthcare careers and education. She has worked in public health, at health-focused nonprofits, and as a Spanish interpreter for doctor’s offices and hospitals. She has a passion for learning and that drives her to stay up to date on the latest trends in healthcare. When not writing or researching, she can be found pursuing her passions of nutrition and an active outdoors lifestyle.

Related Articles

  • 25 January 2023

    2023 Most Affordable Online Family NP Programs (FNP)

    To help students find affordable online family nurse practitioner (FNP) programs, we’ve outlined the top 15 most affordable in-state and out-of-state online FNP programs in 2023.

  • 14 June 2022

    A Day in the Life of an Acute Care Nurse Practitioner – Expert Interview

    Nurse practitioners (NPs) play a crucial role in increasing access to high-quality healthcare for millions of Americans. While the majority of NPs still practice primary care, a growing number are choosing instead to practice acute care.

  • 18 November 2021

    Guide to Nursing Careers in Long-Term Care

    Geriatric nursing in long-term care can prove a rewarding career with many roles and room to grow. Nurses are the heart of long-term care and older adults are a unique population with whom to work.

  • 28 April 2021

    Nurses Month: An Expert’s Advocacy Guide for Those at the Heart of Healthcare

    This May is National Nurses Month, a time to reflect upon the crucial role that nurses play in the American healthcare system. The nation’s more than four million registered nurses (RNs) carry out a wide variety of services: performing physical exams, supplying health education, administering medications and personalized interventions, and coordinating care in collaboration with other health professionals.