How to become a nurse anesthetist
Nurse anesthetists work with doctors providing anesthesia to patients. They are involved in patient care before, during and after surgery, as well as in sedation, and pain management.
Sometimes, different language barriers can arise and require an alternative approach in communication between a patient and their healthcare provider. Download our free communication cards for augmentative and alternative communication (AAC) to have them at hand.
Nurse anesthetists work long hours and require specialist training to qualify. The necessary training varies slightly from country to country, but generally follows the same pattern. In terms of job opportunities, nurse anesthetists can work in a variety of different settings from hospital operating rooms to dental offices and military medical facilities.
Before specialising in anesthesiology, all nurse anesthetists must complete a general nursing undergraduate degree. To be accepted onto one of these programs, having an educational background in science subjects such as biology, chemistry, and math can be very useful. When completing a nursing degree there is a lot of opportunity to gain practical experience. It can be useful to tailor this towards anesthesia in order to gain valuable experience for a career in nurse anesthesiology. This experience is useful when applying to postgraduate training programs in anesthesiology.
After completing a nursing degree, it is necessary to complete a master’s degree in nurse anesthesia. This typically lasts between 2 and 3 years. As well as a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree, all nurse anesthetists must apply for and gain a registered nursing license (RN license). In the USA, it is also essential to complete the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nursing Anesthetists exam, the CRNA exam. Nurse anesthetists need at least 1 year of experience in an acute care unit, such as an emergency room.
Nurse anesthetists are not restricted to working in hospitals. As anesthesia is such an important and widely needed specialisation, nurse anesthetists can work in a wide variety of departments and settings. These include:
- Hospital operating rooms
- Delivery units
- Emergency rooms
- Critical and intensive care units
- Outpatient centers
- Plastic surgery
- Pain management clinics
- Military and government medical facilities
Nurse anesthetists work in a variety of situations that can be highly stressful. Therefore, the following personal skills can be very useful:
- Good communication skills
- Staying calm in emergency situations
- Working well under pressure
- Attention to detail, as the job involves administering specific doses
- Able to work long hours - the nature of being an anesthetist means that you will work with patients before, during and after surgeries, meaning that the day can be long
- Able to work independently, often nurse anesthetists work on their own
- Teamwork: nurse anesthetists have to work with anesthetists, physicians, and surgeons
As well as personal skills, nurse anesthetists must be comfortable with needles and have a good grasp of the equipment used to administer anesthesia and monitor patients. Necessary clinical skills required are grounded in Pharmacology, Anatomy, Physiology, Pathophysiology, and Dosage Calculation. These types of skills include:
- Preparing solutions of drugs
- Inserting intravenous lines for drug administration
- Inserting breathing devices into the windpipe
- Using mechanical ventilation
- Using cardiac monitors and anesthesia machines
- Carrying out epidurals and other types of anesthesia, such as nerve blocks