Be honest, are you one of those people who overanalyze everything? And that includes getting into a nurse anesthesia program. So you’re an ICU nurse and know without a shadow of a doubt, becoming a CRNA is what you want. It’s your purpose and all you can think about.
I get it! Because I’ve been there. But now that you’ve found this big revelation, what’s the next step? Basically, what can you focus on now to get you one step closer to CRNA school acceptance?
There are many steps to becoming a CRNA but to prevent overwhelm you should focus on a few at a time. So, I prepared a list of 5 things you can begin working on right now.
Research nurse anesthesia schools.
It’s critical you begin this research phase early so you are familiar with the programs that best align with your goals. You also want to be realistic when considering your experience, grades, testing scores, leadership, etc. Researching a program is more than just looking at the quantitative components (GRE, GPA, etc.).
While finding your best fit CRNA school can be challenging there are some ways you can narrow it down to find the school best to apply to. And remember you want to look at the school as a whole. Be on the lookout for a FREE training I will be providing on Finding Your Best Fit CRNA School in the next few weeks.
But for now, you can start your research using the CRNA School Search tool on the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs site. It’s an online database about each of the accredited nurse anesthesia programs or you can also visit the individual nurse anesthesia programs’ website.
Begin studying for the GRE.
The GRE is a multiple-choice, computer-based, standardized exam that is often required for admission to graduate programs and graduate business programs (MBA) globally. It consists of 3 sections.
- Analytical writing
- Verbal reasoning
- Quantitative reasoning
Many critical care nurses make the mistake of only studying for a few hours a day for 3- 4 weeks prior to taking the exam. I recommend you begin by creating a plan of attack. Where you set aside a certain amount of hours a day over a few months and follow that up with practice exams.
The Educational Testing Service (ETS) provides both free and low-cost test prep study materials to assist you in preparing for the GRE exam and achieving a high score. The best part is they are the actual administrators of the GRE exam so this is a reliable resource.
Form relationships with letter writers.
When applying to CRNA school you will have to get recommendation letters from people who have directly seen your work either in class or in your critical care unit (e.g. professors, co-workers, physicians, or CRNAs). Most importantly, you should have already formed a relationship with the letter writer to ensure you get a more specific and positive letter of reference.
Ideally, you want to ask for recommendation letters 2- 3 months before you submit your application. Because despite the best of intentions, most letter writers are extremely busy and may not get them completed and returned to you in time. This is why I always recommend requesting them early. Check out this article on the proper etiquette to ask for a recommendation letter.
Begin studying for the CCRN exam.
The CCRN exam is a specialty certification for nurses who provide direct care to acutely ill and critically ill patients. Nurses eligible to take this exam work in the following areas: intensive care units, cardiac care units, combined ICU/CCUs, medical/surgical ICUs, trauma units, or critical care transport/flight. The CCRN exam focuses on:
- Clinical Judgment- 80%
- Professional Caring & Ethical Practice- 20%
Not all nurse anesthesia programs require the CCRN certification but it’s highly recommended to show clinical competence and stand out from other applicants. Just like the GRE exam, you want to begin studying months ahead of time in case you do not pass it the first time and also to get the results by the application deadline. Get your CCRN exam handbook provided by the AACN.
To stand out from the rest of the sea of applicants, enroll in Critical Care Academy to pass the CCRN exam—guaranteed or money back. Use Chase 10 to save 10% off.
Research other certifications.
Basic Life Support (BLS) and Advanced Cardiovascular Life Support (ACLS) are all required for incoming student registered nurse anesthetists (SRNAs). The good news is as a critical care nurse you should already possess these certifications so you can mark those off your list.
Now you can start working on other certifications and get that all behind you so you are a competitive applicant. A pretty quick and easy one to get is the Pediatric Advanced Life Support (PALS) certification. Of course, there are a ton of other nursing certifications you can get. The key is not randomly getting all these certifications to pad your CV but to get certifications in specialties you genuinely want to learn more about.
For instance, before becoming a CRNA, I worked in PACU and every week I went into the OR and delivered moderate sedation for pain management patients. As a result, getting my Certified Sedation Registered Nurse credential was a no-brainer. These additional credentials show that you are a skilled critical care nurse and show your commitment to the profession and your motivation. Here is a list of other nursing certifications you can obtain.
Getting into a CRNA program is no easy feat. But I am proof it can happen for you. The key is to stay persistent by focusing on the things you can control. I have laid out some steps so you can get started today. While the road may be long and difficult, if you start working on these steps you will eventually get there. Go ahead- there is no better time to start than right now!
About The Author
Although hundreds of critical care nurses visit Kiki’s blog each month to learn more about the CRNA profession, her path to becoming a CRNA was not easy. Go here to read her incredible story, “My CRNA Journey: Surgical Tech To CRNA- The Unbelievable“. For a complete guide that shows you exactly how to become a CRNA, grab a copy of the “Ultimate Guide to CRNA School Admission”. It’s FREE and will save you a ton of time and headaches since all the info you need is in one place.