How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist

In order to become a nurse anesthetist, you must become a licensed, registered nurse who has worked for at least one year in an acute care setting. Also, you will be required to complete required education and pass a certification examination.

Education, Certification and Licensure

A nurse anesthetist has an undergraduate degree in nursing. In addition, the nurse anethestist has graduated from a graduate program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). This program usually takes an additional twenty four to thirty six months to complete. A list of the one hundred and nine accredited programs is available on the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs website.

Nurse anesthetists are also licensed registered nurses, so they have completed the NCLEX-RN. A nurse anesthetist will also work for at least one year as a registered nurse in an acute care setting. Once they complete the certification examination offered by the Council on Certification of Nurse Anesthetists and become a CRNA, nurse anesthetists must also complete an additional forty hours of continuing education for re-certification purposes every two years.

Tips and Advice

If you are currently in high school, take classes in biology, chemistry and mathematics. You will also need to focus some of your studies to complete the prerequisites for admission to an undergraduate nursing program. Volunteer, or paid experience, in a health care setting may also be an asset to your application to an undergraduate nursing program. It will also help when you apply for entry-level jobs.

Once in college, direct your nursing program toward acute care nursing. Acute care describes services offered for a short period of time to patients suffering from an illness or injury, such as emergency services or surgery. If available, take additional courses in pharmacology. Complete a Basic Life Support, or at least a First Aid and CPR course, while in college to secure entry-level positions in health care.

Look for entry-level opportunities in acute care nursing. Since at least one year as an acute care nurse is a requirement, it is important that you get some work experience in this area. Your experience in this position will also help you determine if you should pursue this field. Some nurse anesthetists will spend more than one year in acute care and gain experience in different areas, such as general surgery and obstetrics.

Nurse anesthetist programs are highly competitive, so a high GPA is a requirement. Though it is important for all nurses to do well in their programs, the ongoing commitment to professional development and continuing education requires a nurse who enjoys continuously learning. In addition to maintaining a high GPA, it is essential that the nursing student and professional nurse indicate that they have pursued additional training and educational experiences.


Nurse anesthetists are employed by hospitals, plastic surgeons, physician’s offices, dentists and dental surgeons and orthopedic practices. According to the AANA website, nurse anesthetists are “the primary anesthesia providers in rural America”, providing almost all of the anesthesia services in the rural areas of many states. They will work independently or part of an anesthesia team, and they serve a wide variety of patients from pediatric to geriatric patients.