Nurse Anesthetists


Education and Training Requirements

High School

If you want to become a nurse anesthetist, you will first need to become a registered nurse. To prepare for this career, you should take high school mathematics and science courses, including biology, chemistry, and physics. Health courses will also be helpful. English and speech courses should not be neglected because you must be able to communicate well with patients.

Postsecondary Training

All applicants to nurse anesthetist programs must be registered nurses with a bachelor's degree and have at least one year's acute care nursing experience. The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs accredits nurse anesthesia programs within the United States and Puerto Rico. A listing of these programs can be found on its Web site, Admission is competitive, and programs last 24 to 36 months. All accredited programs offer at least a master's degree, and some offer a post-master's certificate or a doctorate. Students take extensive classes in pharmacology and the sciences. They also acquire hundreds of hours of anesthesia-related clinical experience in surgery and obstetrics.

Certification, Licensing, and Special Requirements

Certification or Licensing

All registered nurses must be licensed to practice in the United States. In addition, nurse anesthetists are required to pass a national certification exam given by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). All states recognize certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) status. Certified nurse anesthetists are not required to work under the supervision of an anesthesiologist, although some licensing laws do stipulate that they must work with a physician.

CRNAs must be recertified every two years according to the criteria established by the NBCRNA. Part of this requirement includes earning 40 continuing education credits every two years. The American Society of PeriAnesthesia Nurses also offers a certification program.

Experience, Skills, and Personality Traits

Nurse anesthetists should have proven track records in administering anesthesia and monitoring the patient throughout the surgical procedure. They should be knowledgeable about follow-through protocols and strategies. Their backgrounds must include not only the required education and certification, but also training in patient assessment, experience in working as part of a health care team, and a solid history in preparing and administering specific types of anesthesia.

Since nurse anesthetists are tasked with checking the patient throughout the surgery, they must be skilled at reading output from operating room machines and monitoring body functions. They must be able to adjust the anesthetic, ensuring the patient’s comfort and safety.

Nurse anesthetists must have the ability to concentrate for long periods of time and remain focused on monitoring their patient during surgery. They must be able to analyze problems accurately and swiftly, make decisions quickly, and react appropriately. They must have the ability to remain calm during emergencies and be able to handle stressful situations. Nurse anesthetists also need to have efficient time management skills in order to work efficiently with surgeons and their operating schedules. In addition, nurse anesthetists should also possess good communication skills. Since they are with the patient prior to, during, and after surgery, they should be able to translate highly technical medical jargon for the patient and their families.