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Certified Nurse Anesthetist Week: Career Highlights, Advice, and More

Learn more about what CRNAs do, the work they put into their careers, and what opportunities CRNAs have in their careers.

Certified nurse anesthetists are often unsung heroes. They’re a force bolstering the anesthesia provider shortage, the brains behind essential pain control, and the masterminds of bringing patients close to death and resurfacing them again, all to ensure procedures are comfortable, safe, and effective. 

National CRNA Week is from January 21st through January 27th, during which the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology shares and celebrates the accomplishments of more than 60,000 CRNAs in the United States. Read on to learn more about what CRNAs do, the work they put into their careers, and what opportunities CRNAs have in their careers.

Becoming a CRNA

CRNAs establish all types of anesthesia in all healthcare settings. According to the AANA, CRNAs require seven to eight years of education. They’re also the only anesthesia professionals who need critical care experience before going into the field, racking up nearly 10,000 hours of clinical experience before practicing. Their median salary is around $190,000 annually, depending on their geographical area and specialty.

Becoming a CRNA takes dedication, says Casey Green, BSN, RN, CCRN-CMC, CTRN, CFRN, CEN, TCRN, CPEN, NRP, a prospective CRNA student. “My biggest advice is to stick with it.” Green is also the 85th nurse to obtain all five emergency nursing certifications.

Green shares that CRNAs show their dedication in many ways, such as:

  • Taking time to finish CRNA education
  • Investing money in upfront costs
  • Participating in unit committees
  • Receiving additional certifications and taking extra courses
  • Going to open houses to speak with program directors
  • Shadowing CRNAs
  • Gaining critical care experience 

Green recommends gaining your critical care experience in an ICU you enjoy working in and one that will foster career growth and opportunities for you. You’ll need at least one year of critical care experience, but many CRNA students have three or more years of this experience. 

Think outside the box, she says, there are several critical care environments to choose from, like:

  • Cardiac intensive care units
  • Neurological intensive care units
  • Medical intensive care units
  • Trauma intensive care units
  • Neonatal intensive care units
  • Surgical intensive care units

Experience in any of these ICUs would be impactful for applying to CRNA school.

Who Would Enjoy Being a CRNA?

“I knew I wanted to practice at the ceiling of the scope as a nurse,” Green explains. She enjoys that anesthesia combines her knowledge and experience of ICU, ER, and critical care transport nursing. She initially felt inspired after having ankle surgery and receiving a helpful nerve block. “I wanted to be able to do the same for other patients.”

Qualities an aspiring CRNA may want to have include:

  • Desire to be a lifelong learner
  • Passion for safe and effective care
  • Confidence in clinical decision-making

Everett Moss, DNP, CRNA, APRN, NRP, also shares what makes a student excel in CRNA school. “They not only have the knowledge and skills and abilities to do the didactic and clinical work, but also a passion to provide safe, effective, efficient, and considerate care,” Moss emphasizes the importance of gaining patients’ trust to keep them safe during risky procedures. “Being smart counts, but being caring is what makes a difference in the anesthesia we provide.”

Is the CRNA Community Supportive?

The CRNA is excited to welcome CRNAs and students passionate about nurse anesthesia. 

Rhea Temmermand, CRNA, Ph.D., says, “The CRNA community, embedded within the broader nursing profession, fosters a supportive environment where members actively collaborate to ensure collective success.” She adds that this community strives for the success of each member and takes pride in celebrating diverse accomplishments.  

Jenny Finnell, MSN, CRNA, is the founder of CRNA School Prep Academy and has made a career out of her passion for supporting aspiring CRNAs. She shares how she dedicates time to empowering nurses to pursue CRNA school. “I’ve navigated the ups and downs of becoming a CRNA myself, and I understand the hurdles and victories involved.”

As a mentor, she enjoys sharing lessons and insights about the role of a CRNA.” I aim to ignite, sustain, and elevate the aspirations of these future CRNAs, thereby fostering growth and promoting excellence within the nurse anesthesia community.”

What Career Paths Are Available for CRNAs?

CRNAs have the option to work in several specialty areas. Some of these possibilities include: 

  • Operating rooms
  • Emergency rooms
  • Dental offices
  • OBGYN floors
  • Outpatient offices
  • Public office
  • Leadership
  • Hospital committees
  • Medical spas
  • Anesthesia agencies
  • Research

Temmermand shares how becoming a CRNA allowed her to pursue her interest in science, pharmacology, and pathophysiology. 

A CRNA, according to Temmermand, is someone who:

  • Is an expert in anesthesiology
  • A leader in crisis situations
  • Compassionate to patients
  • An advocate for those who can’t advocate for themselves

Temmermand feels she found a role perfectly tailored to her strengths, conducting high-level scientific research for novel solutions in chronic pain management. Her CRNA experience was imperative to launching her research career. “Exposure to diverse cases and pathologies in the operating room has enriched my scientific understanding of diseases studied in the laboratory,” she explains. Temmermand adds, “The journey of becoming a CRNA has not only fulfilled my initial career goal but has also opened doors to a myriad of opportunities for personal and professional growth.” 

The Bottom Line

CRNAs deserve to be celebrated for their accomplishments in the field of nursing. The anesthesia specialty is much better due to its nurses, dedication to their education, and passion for their practice. 

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