If you are a nurse looking to advance your career you probably have considered becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA). CRNAs are among the highest compensated and most prestigious professions in the nursing field. Unlike all of the other areas of nursing, the CRNA profession is predominantly dominated by males. Working in collaboration with anesthesiologists, these nurses provide anesthesia to patients who require sedation or analgesia during surgical procedures and to laboring women.
CRNA Prerequisite Requirements
In order to get accepted into a CRNA program you must first be licensed as a registered nurse and will need a minimum of a bachelor’s degree. You can then either obtain a master’s degree or a doctoral degree depending on the CRNA program you choose to attend. Most CRNA programs require at least one year of employment experience in a critical care setting.
(click this link to read Nursing 411: The Ultimate Career Guide for Busy Adults: How to Earn Your Degree While Keeping Your Day Job and Raising Your Family and learn about becoming a CRNA and other career opportunities for nurses)
CRNA programs are highly competitive and have rigorous academic requirements. Applicants should have competitive GPAs, GRE scores, and professional references. To give you an idea of how competitive these programs truly are, most programs will accept around 25 students per enrollment period and will receive anywhere from 2500-5000 applicants. This means an applicant has roughly a 0.5-1% chance of getting accepted per enrollment period.
Increasing Your Chances
Applicants can increase their chances of being accepted into a program by having a strong admissions essay, practicing for the admissions interview, shadowing other CRNAs, and networking with current CRNA students. If you are not accepted initially you can retake courses to increase your GPA, retake your GRE, and reapply for the next admissions cycle. Applicants that reapply after being rejected may be looked at favorably for their dedication and perseverance.
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CRNA Academic Requirements
Most CRNA programs are structured like medical residencies in that they have didactic sessions in a classroom setting and clinical rotations in healthcare settings. The average program takes 2-3 years to complete fulltime. After graduation from the program nurse anesthetists must pass a comprehensive board exam in order to become licensed to practice.
Working During the Program
Most CRNA programs strongly advise their students not to work while enrolled. The academic and clinical requirements are quite rigorous and time consuming. Individuals that try to hold down a job are much less likely to be successful and pass their courses. If you apply to a program that does not strictly forbid you to work, it’s still a good idea to limit the number of hours you work.
Raising Kids During the Program
Many people have completed CRNA school while raising their families, but they will all tell you that this requires tremendous short-term sacrifices and a strong support system. If you have kids and are planning to apply to CRNA school, plan on talking to your spouse or significant other, parents, siblings, friends, or anyone else who cares about you, and let them know that you will need their help. You will have to delegate things like cooking, cleaning, and shopping to your loved ones whenever possible. You can offer to return favors or even work out a compensation plan for them after you graduate in exchange for their help. It is also much easier if you have older kids as opposed to raising infants and toddlers
Like all nursing professions, CRNAs are expected to see excellent job growth within the next decade. When compared to other nursing professions however there are less CRNA jobs available than there are jobs in other nursing specialties. A recent inquiry on indeed.com revealed 1700 CRNA vacancies as opposed to 30,000 nurse practitioner vacancies and 200,000 registered nurse vacancies in the U.S. This is something to keep in mind when considering choosing this area for your career path.
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About the Author
Hi. I’m Salimah Jones, Family Nurse Practitioner, author, and expert nursing career consultant. As the founder of The Nursing Guide, I help aspiring and current nurses achieve success in their nursing careers. I have been in the healthcare field for over 10 years and have extensive experience in nursing education, leadership, and management. CLICK HERE to join The Nursing Guide Facebook Group and to connect we me and the other community members.