Nurse Anesthetist Programs
The nurse anesthetist also referred to as a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), is a sought after and rewarding occupation in the field of advanced practice registered nurse. Those with a desire to work in anesthesia and the drive to work with a high level of autonomy can enter the CRNA pathway via a specialty Master's Degree in Nursing (MSN) or a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). With campus-based and online options based all throughout the country, becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist is as easy as picking the right program.
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There are a few key elements to look for when researching nurse anesthetist programs:
Making sure a nurse anesthetist program is accredited is extremely important, and is a great sign that the program is of a high caliber. Prospective CRNA students will want to look for accreditation from the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs.
Nurse anesthesia programs typically list tuition costs by credits. While these costs can vary depending on location and school, students can expect to pay anywhere from $1,000 to $1,700 per credit for tuition for both MSN and DNP program options. This usually does not include additional costs such as mandatory school fees, course materials, or books. Financial aid is widely available for well-qualified students.
MSN-level nurse anesthetist programs can typically be completed in around 29 months, with roughly 64 credits required. DNP-level CRNA programs take closer to 36 months and can require around 100 credits. Both programs are usually split between classroom-based courses and clinical experiences.
Clinical residencies are a large part of the CRNA student's learning experience. Most schools will help to arrange internships, externships, and other hands-on rotations at local hospitals and medical centers, as this is a requirement of the program.
To meet the demands of busy students, many programs offer both online and campus-based certified registered nurse anesthetist pathways. Some schools will even offer a "hybrid" program, allowing students to take many courses online but also offering classroom-based lectures and labs.
Nurses have two pathways to become CRNAs; they can choose the master's route or the doctoral route. Both programs offer advanced-level core and specialized courses and also require clinical hours as part of the program of study. Students should consider which type of educational program is right for them when thinking about CRNA education.
An MSN Nurse Anesthesia program consists of a mix of advanced general nursing courses, specialty anesthesia courses, and lots of hands-on training. Students take courses such as Chemistry and Physics for Nurse Anesthetists, Anesthesia Principles, Research Methods, and more. The clinical practicum is extensive and involves pre-operative interviews, patient assessment, intravenous sedation, and other hands-on experiences. Westminster College in Utah, as an example, offers an accredited MS Nurse Anesthesia program.
There are roughly 16 DNP Nurse Anesthesia programs available around the country. The DNP goes a step farther than the MSN-based programs to prepare students in nurse anesthesia at the highest level. Beyond the generalized and anesthesia-based coursework, DNP students take classes such as Leadership Theory, Teaching/Learning, and Economics of Health Care to hone supervisory and leadership skills. The University of Minnesota, for example, offers an accredited DNP Nurse Anesthetist program dedicated to creating advanced CRNAs.
There are some distance learning (i.e. online) CRNA programs available for students who want the convenience and flexibility of completing coursework from their own homes. These programs usually utilize a hybrid model of delivery, offering some courses online but requiring some labs and hands-on experiences in the classroom.
Advantages of An Online Program
Online learning has numerous advantages. Those with busy schedules and families usually enjoy being able to take the courses from home on their own time. Online programs are also essential for those in rural areas who couldn't feasibly get to a university on a day-to-day basis. These programs can also save on expenses, as online students don't have to worry about the costs associated with commuting, such as gas and parking fees. While hands-on clinical hours in a hospital or medical facility are required, many online programs allow students to arrange these in their local area. Prospective students should inquire with their school of choice to get information on things like on-campus requirements and clinical practicum options.
Like classroom-based programs, online CRNA programs can hold accreditations, and students should check to make sure a prospective program is properly accredited. The most important for a nurse anesthetist program is accreditation from the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Education Programs, but ACEN and CCNE accreditations are also ones to watch for.
Costs and Length
Online nurse anesthetist programs require the same amount of credits as their classroom-based counterparts but allow students to work at their own pace, making the length a variable factor. Most online programs require that students finish the coursework in a specified amount of time (for example, within 7 years of starting). Tuition cost is also similar, at $1,000 per credit and up, but overall costs for online students are typically lower since these students don't have commuting costs and often don't have to pay for as many mandatory fees as campus-based programs. For instance, the Nurse Anesthesia DNP program at Texas Wesleyan University charges $1,150 per credit hour, which includes fees.
Nurse Practitioners (NPs) and nurse anesthetists are similar in that they are both advanced-practice nurses. However, they do differ in terms of education, job duties/roles, and salary.
Both NPs and certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) start off in a master’s or doctorate program to earn their advanced-practice degree. After foundation courses are completed, students complete courses pertaining to their specialty “track”. For example, NP students focus on adult or pediatric primary or acute care, women’s health, psychiatry, etc., while the nurse anesthetist students begin a course of study on anesthesia concepts and research.
The roles and duties of an NP versus a nurse anesthetist are quite different. While both must take a complete history and complete a full assessment, a nurse practitioner, depending on his or her role, is responsible for the care of the patient in either the acute or primary care setting. They may focus on preventive care, or care for the patient during an acute illness. Nurse anesthetists have a different, highly specialized role. They are responsible for administering anesthesia and sedation, monitoring the patient during a procedure, and inserting central lines and epidurals. They must be knowledgeable about the different types of anesthesia medications and be alert to any adverse reactions.
Because CRNAs are in high demand, it is not uncommon for hospitals to begin recruiting students. Depending on the state, some CRNA students can sign contracts while still in school, and employment is contingent on becoming licensed. In other states, licensing is required first.
Many hospitals offer employment contracts with CRNA students, advertising student loan reimbursement, benefits packages, etc. It’s a good idea to read these contracts closely. Sometimes students are dazzled by the loan reimbursement, but realize the pay or benefits aren’t that great. Also, sometimes a length of time of employment is outlined in the contract, and the new graduate decides a specific work area or organization is not a good fit for them - and they are stuck. There may be the possibility to “buy out” of a contract, but it would take time and money out of pocket to do so.
CRNA students should read any contract carefully, and possibly have an attorney advise. Identifying the positive and negative aspects of a contract is a must to determine what component is of most value to the individual. Additionally, CRNA students are strongly encouraged to check their state's board of nursing to see if licensing is needed before signing a contract.
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) are advanced-practice nurses who are certified in administering anesthesia. Due to a widespread physician shortage, advanced-practice nurses are taking a more prominent role in healthcare delivery - including the field of anesthesiology.
While healthcare continuously progresses and evolves, there are still remnants of “old-school” hierarchies that exist between physicians and nurses and yes, male and female providers. Some physicians have difficulty coming to grips with a nurse practicing at an advanced level and performing the same work as medical doctors. Additionally, tensions run high during a surgical procedure. Everything must be precise and organized to allow for the best patient care outcome. The strain of this considerable responsibility often brings the worst out in people- and a hierarchical environment doesn't help matters.
In healthcare, new practitioners sometimes must “prove themselves” to experienced staff to earn respect. There are many anecdotes of nurses and APRNs verbally biting back when they are snapped at by a physician, and the hostility stops. However, it's not acceptable for any verbal abuse or harassment to occur in any setting, including the operating room. It doesn't matter if the culture is "old-school" or not. If discussing the issue directly with the surgeon doesn't end the behavior, it should be reported immediately to a supervisor.
Nurse anesthetist MSN and DNP programs typically have the following requirements:
- BSN or MSN from an accredited college or university
- Minimum GPA of 3.0
- Personal statement outlining the student's desire to become a CRNA
- Three letters of professional reference
- Resume or CV detailing relevant job titles
- GRE scores may be required
- Current RN license in good standing
- Copy of official university transcripts
- Current PALS and ACLS certifications
Certification as a CRNA is obtained through the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA). Criteria for the examination includes:
- Hold an unrestricted RN license
- Must have completed an accredited nurse anesthesia program
- Must submit a completed application and an electronically prepared record of academic and clinical experience signed by both the student and a program administrator within 30 days of completing the program
Certification as a CRNA is awarded upon successful completion of the examination.
A variety of nurse anesthetist programs designed to prepare CRNAs are available from coast to coast and include the following list.
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