There’s a good chance that you, as an NP, have looked up some information on how to become a CRNA. They make about $60,000 more than NPs, are very in-demand, and the job comes with a few professional characteristics that some APRNs find attractive.
For many nurse practitioners, having a bigger paycheck is enough reason to make the switch. However, we believe they should be aware of what they need to have to become a CRNA. It’s not that easy to enroll in one of their programs, and we will explain why below.
This post is meant to help you decide. It’s kind of hard to find information on making the switch as an APRN. Nursing students usually decide to become CRNAs when they are RNs. When they don’t have their master’s yet.
Let’s break down some of the most common questions you might have about this career path:
Can I become a CRNA if I am a nurse practitioner?
The short answer to this question is yes. You can choose to become a CRNA if you are a nurse practitioner. Nevertheless, there are some things to consider.
First of all, becoming a CRNA is not equal to climbing up the ladder. If you are an NP, it is more of a lateral move. Like a career change.
Getting into CRNA school implies starting all over again. That means applying and interviewing for different programs, studying full time, doing clinicals, and (usually) leaving work.
What are the basic requirements to become a CRNA?
The common starting point for nurse anesthetists is currently an MSN or doctoral degree.
Before you start weighing your options, you should be aware that these requirements will soon change. The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Education (COA) is moving to raise the educational standards of nurse anesthetists. They want every CRNA program in the country to become a doctoral program by 2025.
Though these changes are important, they don’t mean that you will have to get a doctoral degree in order to practice as a CRNA. If you graduate before 2025, you’ll be good to go with a master’s. You won’t be forced to get a doctorate.
However, it is possible that many clinics or hospitals might ask their CRNA job applicants to have a doctorate because of these changes. You might have better chances of getting a job by pursuing his type of degree.
The minimum requirements to enter one of these programs, in accordance to COA guidelines, are:
- A minimum of 1 year experience working in a critical care setting (as an RN)
- A grade point average (GPA) of 3.0
- A minimum GRE score of 300
Other requirements that universities might ask you for are:
- Letters of recommendation
- Transcripts that show academic success
- Some prerequisite courses
- ACLS and PALS certification (for doctoral programs)
Every CRNA program is different. If you look around, you might find some requirements that we failed to include on this list. In any case, you now know what you generally need to get into CRNA school. Being an NP is not necessarily going to help your chances, but it doesn’t hurt either.
After studying to become a CRNA you’ll have to pass a certification exam, and you’ll have to recertify every four years.
I didn’t have any critical care experience as an RN, what do I do?
Some websites suggest going back to bedside care, which is possible, but not entirely necessary. Some NPs, like those working in Acute Care, might have a chance to enter a CRNA program because of their experience.
If you already have experience working in a critical care setting as an NP, you might get accepted into a program with no trouble. The important thing here is to be able to prove that you have the required experience.
Another point to consider is that your critical care experience will need to be recent, in most cases.
Will my academic experience as a nurse practitioner help me with my CRNA studies?
If you do get accepted into CRNA school, there is a small chance that you might be able to skip a class, like pathophysiology, but this is not guaranteed.
Again, choosing to become a CRNA is starting all over again. No matter how good of an NP you are, the curriculum for a nurse anesthetist is completely different. You have to keep this in mind, and not delude yourself by thinking you can fast-track the process because you are already an APRN.
Getting into CRNA school means studying full time. Most programs will even discourage you from working while studying. That can make things harder for you.
CRNA programs take 2 to 3 years of study, which is not that much. However, these programs are intense. You’re looking at 24 to 36 months of going to school without being able to to work.
You’re also looking at a lot of student debt, which you might be able to pay off with your bigger salary. We are not trying to discourage you from taking this path, but we believe that you should know exactly what you’d be getting into.
What are the benefits of being a nurse anesthetist?
Aside from usually being paid a lot of money, nurse anesthetists enjoy a variety of benefits, such as:
More autonomy: Nurse anesthetists can practice with a higher degree of autonomy than nurse practitioners. They are the sole provider of anesthesia in many clinical spaces, and they don’t require constant supervision by a physician. You will have more control over patient care.
More professional respect: Aside from being the highest paid APRN position in the country, it seems that CRNAs enjoy a greater deal of respect. We can’t tell you exactly why, but it might have to do with their highly specialized knowledge, longer working hours, etc.
Higher demand: You can work almost anywhere, and the need for CRNAs is currently growing. Put those two things together and you get a position in which it is quite hard to be unemployed. The BLS reports that this career will grow by 30% in the upcoming decade.
A more stable type of work: It’s not easy to be a CRNA, don’t get us wrong. Being in surgery means working long hours. However, for some people, this kind of work is easier. It does involve dealing less with patients themselves and more with monitoring and administering their anesthesia. It can be a quieter, more straightforward experience.
Nevertheless, you’ll have a lot more responsibility, and you’ll have to be on your toes constantly.
Is it worth it in the end to become a CRNA?
You might have to figure out the answer to that question by yourself. Now you know that 3 years of intense studying can help you to earn more, to work in a different setting, to become more autonomous, etcetera. It’s up to you to come up with your own reasons to become a CRNA.
For what it’s worth, you’ll find that a lot of nurse practitioners do pursue this path. Most of them are happy with their choice, and for them, going back to school is usually not a problem.
A good way to see if the job is right for you is to shadow a CRNA where you work. Find out if you can do that and if so, it will probably be very helpful for the decision making process.
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