How To Become A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA)

To be considered for admission into a nurse anesthesia program, there are certain requirements you must meet. Of course, each nurse anesthesia program is different, and requirements may vary. Therefore, this guideline should be used as a self-evaluation tool as you pursue your dream of becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). You can check out my own CRNA journey here. Let’s get started….

  • BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) 
  • A current U.S issued RN (Registered Nurse) License
  • 1- 2 years Critical Care/ ICU experience within the last 2 years
  • Cumulative GPA and science GPA of 3.0 or better
  • Minimum GRE score of 300 or better
  • Prerequisites: undergraduate statistics, biochemistry, chemistry, etc.
  • Shadow a CRNA
  • Obtain CCRN (Critical Care Nurse Registered Nurse) certification
  • Certifications (BLS, ACLS, PALS)

Timeline you are looking at

  • Undergraduate nursing degree: 4 years
  • Critical care experience: 1- 2 years at least, could be more depending on when you apply
  • Nurse anesthesia school: 2- 4 years

Minimum time of school + RN experience: 7- 10+ years from start to finish of CRNA school

Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)

If you possess a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, you are off to a great start since it is required in over half of the 121 accredited nurse anesthesia programs in the United States and Puerto Rico. However, there are nurse anesthesia programs which will accept a bachelor’s degree in another related field along with an Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN).

Read5 Costs To Expect When Applying To CRNA School

Registered Nurse License 

If your nursing license is current and U.S. issued, you can choose to apply to any program you desire. After being accepted, you will be required to obtain a RN license in the state you will be practicing in.

1- 2 years Critical Care/ ICU experience

The Council on Accreditation mandates nurse anesthesia programs accept only nurses with at least one year of critical care experience. However, this doesn’t mean you can’t apply before you have one year of experience if you have this experience prior to the start of the nurse anesthesia program. Still, the typical applicant has 3- 4 years of this type of experience when they first apply.

The best candidates have gained tons of knowledge and skills from their ICU experience by maximizing their learning opportunities. Your Critical Care/ ICU experience needs to be within two years of applying. 

Cumulative GPA

Graduate school in general along with nurse anesthesia courses is very demanding and grueling. Even those students with a high undergrad GPA of a 4.0 find the coursework extremely challenging. Therefore, to be as competitive as possible and decrease attrition, programs typically accept students who demonstrate they can meet the high academic requirements.

Many nurse anesthesia programs will require a 3.0 GPA in the sciences and/ or your BSN program or in the last 60 units of your education. If your GPA is less than a 3.0 it may be harder to get an interview but don’t fret, just show you are strong in other areas or possibly retake courses you scored less than a B in.

Combined Minimum GRE score of 300 or better

The Graduate Record Examinations (GRE) is a type of standardized test that is an admissions requirement for some graduate schools. The GRE measures verbal reasoning and quantitative relationships which is important in anesthesia practice.

Although some nurse anesthesia programs do not require the GRE; the ones that do usually look for a minimum score of 300. Some programs may waive the GRE all together if you possess a GPA above 3.4 or have a master’s degree.

Prerequisite courses

There is a certain amount of preparation required prior to starting a CRNA program due to the intensity of the program. While the schools vary in terms of required prerequisites, there are some overlap between the programs. Below is a list of the most commonly required prerequisite courses:

  • Statistics
  • Chemistry 
  • Biochemistry
  • Microbiology
  • Research
  • Physics
  • Pharmacology
  • Anatomy and physiology

Other things to do on your quest to nurse anesthesia school

To show you are highly motivated and set you apart from the rest of the applicants there are some other things you may want to consider:

  • In order to understand what lies ahead, you must interact directly with a CRNA. Therefore, you should shadow a CRNA for a minimum of 8 hours, but I highly suggest 40 hours to get a better understanding of what a CRNA does.
  • Attain additional certifications like ACLS, BLS, PALS and CCRN. Obtaining these additional certifications demonstrate your determination for higher learning. According to the American Association of Critical Care Nurses, the CCRN certification shows a mark of excellence and comprehensive national standard knowledge. The CCRN certification may even be required for some nurse anesthesia programs and either way it will make you more competitive than the rest of applicants. 
  • Finally, to further strengthen your application think of various ways to set yourself apart. Undertake other activities such as attend anesthesia related courses or seminars, seek leadership opportunities in your current position, or create a portfolio of everything you’ve done since you became a nurse and send it along with your application.

Remember these are merely suggestions and do not guarantee an interview or admission to any nurse anesthesia program since the ultimate decision rests with the admission committee. Still, use this as a guideline to get started and become closer to your dream of becoming a CRNA! If you don’t start somewhere you will never get there anyway.

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