Calling All Candidates


David_Steve_ORThis past week I had the privilege to participate in candidate interviews for our Nurse Anesthesia Program here at the University of Southern California housed in the Keck School of Medicine program. Beginning this process started with reading through long dossiers from each of the candidates including transcript records and personal statements. After reading 35 or so of these collections, the process of evaluating each of them individually began. This whole process was inconsequential without meeting these wonderful people and putting a face and personality to the paper facade that I had been poring over for so long. Now for the hard part that has been put before us, the personal interviews.

What amazed me the most about the interviews were the surprises that I found in the potential students that were interviewed this past week. Some of people that looked great on paper were marginal face-to-face or just plan incongruous with their written profile. Other candidates that looked to have just an acceptable ICU experience on paper were absolutely fabulous in person with knowledge presence and charisma. As one of the seasoned faculty members reasoned with me, “You will find clear examples of candidates that will fit with our program perfectly and others that do not fit at all. The trouble comes in the middle and that’s where the debates will come among the faculty members each championing their personal favorites for those last remaining few spots.” Hmmmmm, I am thinking now that there is more than enough truth in this. We will all decide together which candidates will be best for our program in the class starting in this fall. There are several more interviewing days and many more candidates to see so its back to work reading and thinking about what it is that makes a candidate for a Nurse Anesthesia Program shine.

In these past few days I have been pondering this question. What makes a candidate perfect for Nurse Anesthesia? This kismet for the candidates has been occupying my mind for more than this past week. Personally I have spent years positioning myself to do well in preparation for anesthesia practice and now as a faculty member in a great teaching institution I am challenged to keep growing and setting the standard for the students and potential students to rise to. That is why I write now dear reader to tell you what it takes to prepare for Nurse Anesthesia School and eventual Nurse Anesthesia practice. This is no small undertaking. If you will allow me to share with you both personal and professional opinions about “getting in and doing well” in the profession of Nurse Anesthesia practice you will note that these are my opinions and do not represent any official word from any program. Also, please take into consideration that what I have to share with you may apply to your personal situation or it may not. Finally, take these suggestions a grain of humor in the middle of your struggles to rise to something new in your nursing practice.

First, you must know that I am on your side and want all of you to succeed and shine in your chosen field of Nurse Anesthesia Practice. Knowing that, you have to understand that not all will reach these goals. This is painful for many I know. It has taken me a long time to attain my own personal goals so I am very sympathetic with those that have a vision of what they want to do and become, a vision that at times seams so far away and unreachable.

First, you must have a “Fire In the Belly” to come to nurse anesthesia practice. Simply put, you must have an overwhelming desire to do this or you will not have the energy or stamina to complete the journey. This is a personal characteristic that I have seen in all successful candidates that enter into anesthesia study as a nurse. The competition is huge on all sides and the determination to prevail is required. So right now ask yourself, “Am I up to this. Do I have enough inner drive toSteve_Sam_Davidget me over all of the hurtles that will be in the path?” If you just take a self-check now and measure your pulse you will know. Are you getting excited yet? If not then maybe you should just settle for another area of practice. Nurse Anesthesia is not for everyone and as you will see the road does get narrow. So motivation is the first requirement. Desire to put this goal first are really important. Motivation is one of the things that we look for in potential candidates for our program; so ask yourself, “Do you have enough”? This is a personal characteristic you can do something about. Motivation comes from inside of you and does not depend on how old you are, how young, what color, ethic background, religion you follow or any of that stuff. None of those external trappings matter. What matters comes from inside; its what will drive you to excel and shine as a nurse anesthetist.

My second suggestion is reasonable as well. Do you have the required clinical background that will ensure your success in a nurse anesthesia program and are you willing to change jobs, move or do what ever necessary to get the best experience before entering graduate education in a nurse anesthesia program? This links the motivation to where you are now. Maybe you are in a very comfortable community hospital ICU that has sick patients but most of them are of the garden variety. Are you getting the experience in your present work place that is needed for you to be successful in Nurse Anesthesia School? Additionally, how long have you been working in an intensive care setting? The minimum requirement set by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) is 1 year of ICU experience. Often I find that this is simply not enough for the average candidate coming in to our program. We encourage more than the minimum and based on the individual often this will require more than two years. This is not always the case and occasionally there are those that through extreme effort and desire will get the experience and knowledge in one and a half years or so before coming into anesthesia training. During the interviews this past week there was one such individual that really shined with a year and a half in the ICU but for most candidates it requires more time. So question number two asks you if you have a good enough experience before planning a career in anesthesia. If you do not think your experience is very strong, trust me your interviews will not think so. I encourage you to look for an academic Teaching Hospital where you can really ramp up your skills. For those candidates that come to us with all of the right stuff but lack enough clinical experience we set goals together and require the CCRN certificate before they reapply for the following year.

Academic preparation is always required. Our program requires coursework that other programs may not require. We require a college physics course as well as the Graduate Entrance Exam which other programs may not ask for. Based on the program that you plan on attending it makes sense to contact them directly and find out what the individual requirements are for the school that you want to attend. Planning and preparation are really important. Get all of “your ducks in a row” as they say! Find out what your program requires in the way of course work and finish it all up. One way you can do this is to go to the AANA web site and look up the programs in your area or where you want to go to school for their individual requirements. All of the top programs have web sites that you can peruse. You can examine their prerequisites and evaluate their programs to see if they are a fit for you. These are tangible things you can do to minimize your stress. Find out exactly what you have to do and your chances of success will go up. This makes sense.

JR_ORPerhaps you took organic chemistry a few years ago and were preoccupied with working and personal relationships and you did not do well in the course. You can take it again and improve your grades. Often we find that students did not do well in their undergraduate studies for any number of reasons. Now a couple of years later you have new goals and are motivated to get into graduate study. You can now go back and take a couple of science courses, do well and demonstrate that you are focused and ready for the academic rigor of anesthesia didactic. These are things that you can do to improve your chances of getting in and improve your ability to do well once you are studying more advance topics that require a strong basic science base. I will refer you back to requirement number one, “Do you have the Fire” to do what you have to do?

There are several other things you can do to improve your chances of getting in to your program of choice. Most of these are personal interview and follow through skills that we can comment on in other editions of the Nurse Anesthetist Blog. For now I wish all of you great success and the strength of perseverance to reach your goals. If there is any thing that I can do for any one of you just drop me a note in the contact section.

Categories : Student Life


  1. SAIKINS says:

    I have been looking at Nurse Anesthetist websites for years and have not found a more appropriate description of how bad I want to become a CRNA. I have recently graduated from nursing school with my ADN/RN. I am enrolled in Grand Canyon University’s BSN program and working in the PICU currently. I have 4.0 GPA and am working SO hard to become a CRNA. I have the “fire in by belly”, at minimum! I have one concern…I have been told that in Arizona (where I currently live) that I will not be able to find a job as a CRNA because they are not widely recognized here. This is confusing to me because they have a wonderful CRNA program here at Midwestern. Have you heard of this situation before? If, so…any suggestions?

  2. doramummy says:

    Thanks a lot for your info. I will be applying by December, 2008 to USC. I currently work in a teaching hospital in Los Angeles. My GPA is 3.5 My biggest problem is the GRE. I am so scared of the GRE. I have registered for the princeton review and it had shown how difficult the GRE can be especially the vocabulary.
    But I have to do it, this is what I want to be in the future and I have to face the challenges.

  3. Kimik1061 says:

    The GRE is a bear of a test. I did not do well on my first attempt, and yes i also took the Princeton Review. After my first try i swore that i would never repeat the test. Then, after i became rational, i went to the bookstore and looked for another book to study for review. I ended up using the Idiot Proof Guide to the GRE. I increased my score by 130 points and i have my interview in one month. The test is still a terrible test and does not measure how well a person will do in any program…this is a studied and proven fact! One of those evidence based practice issues, but still all of the programs that i am aware of still need something to judge their candidates by…so the GRE it is. Good luck!

  4. David Godden says:

    Kimik, I am so happy that you will be interviewing for a program soon after your hard work at the GRE. Here at USC the GRE is a requirement of the graduate school not the program of nurse anesthesia. This is true of many programs. All graduate school candidates must demonstrate a minimum on the GRE in order to be considered for admission and may or may not be used to rank candidates.

    I can tell you as one of the persons involved in candidate selection, that the GRE in not a major criteria. When evaluating potential SRNA’s the whole package is looked at.; experience, grades, attitude as well as how the candidate interviews. The GRE is considered but not heavily. What we want and I am sure what every program wants are students that will be successful as SRNA’s and anesthesia providers. That does not always mean the person with the highest grades or GRE scores.

    So just forget the GRE now and concentrate on doing your best in the interview. Good luck and hopefully we will talk soon.

  5. Tracey Jones says:

    Hello David,

    You are the best; you are very informative. My question is: what ICU clinical area should one practice in to be prepared for Nurse Anesthesia training?


  6. admin says:


    Thanks for sending a little message to me.

    To answer your question about the best ICU experience prior to nurse anesthesia practice I would say that in my opinion a surgical ICU in a teaching hospital is best. The absolute best is a cardio-thoracic ICU where they have multiple drips and all kinds of crazy things going on.

    The teaching hospital experience is different than a community hospital. What you see at a medical school teaching hospital level one trauma center in one month will not be seen in ten years at a community hospital. Keep that in mind.

    More later.


  7. Danielle says:


    I am very interested in pursuing CRNA school in the future. I currently work in the PICU at Hopkins…I heard that it is difficult for PICU nurses to get into CRNA school and that directors of the programs would rather have candidates that have worked in adult ICUs. Is that true? Also, what kinds of questions are asked during the interview? I have heard from multiple people that the interview is the most difficult part to getting accepted into CRNA programs.

    Thanks for your time.

  8. David says:


    I just received your comment and question about the PICU experience. Personally I think that PICU experience is a PLUS. All of the drug dosing is mcg / kg which is what we do in anesthesia and you get a range of patient ages and disease processes.

    In general all of the PICU nurses we have excepted into our USC program have done exceptionally well. I definitely know that we do not discriminate against PICU nurses for our program and there is a general feeling that all of the other qualities and attributes are what is important when choosing a candidate for our program. So, bottom line, do not let any one discourage you. Its more important to excel in your practice, get plenty of good experience both medical and surgical, sit for the AACN pediatric critical care certification. These are the points that will set you apart and make a good CRNA.

    Good luck and contact me any time.

  9. Helen says:

    My daughter is interested in a nurse anaesthesia course

    We live in the uk

    Can international students also apply?


    Helen ameen

  10. Gibson says:

    Good day Sir David,

    I am Gibson Gallo, a registered nurse from the Philippines. I am very much interested in becoming a candidate for the nurse anesthesia program. I have read that a minimum of 1 year experience in the critical care (ICU) is needed (such as the ICU). Presently, I am studying for the NCLEX-RN while working on the med-surg wards here in the Philippines at the same time.

    I am planning to shift my concentration from the ward to the ICU here in the Philippines. Is an ICU nurse experience in the Philippines valid? or do I really have to render duty as an ICU nurse there in the States?

    Your reply will be the basis of my decision whether I’ll stay with the med surg ward or shift to the ICU.

    Thank you so much Sir!

  11. Gibson Gallo Jr. says:

    Hello David,

    I am an ICU nurse in the Philippines. Is an ICU experience outside US okay if you would like to apply as a CRNA student?

    Thank you
    Gibson Gallo Jr.

  12. Kelly says:


    Do you have any advice for the interview? I have one at Northeastern University on the 20th and I am very excited but also nervous. I have a decent GPA, satisfactory GRE score, just received my CCRN last month and have over 2 years experience in a stroke ICU in a level 1 trauma center teaching hospital. I have heard they really drill candidates with clinical questions. I am going to review and be as prepared as I can but any advice would be welcome!


  13. David says:


    It sounds like you have all your “ducks in a row”. Don’t worry about the interview, you have prepared with the CCRN. Just be yourself and positive. Good luck.

  14. Janiece says:


    I am finishing up my application for USC and am VERY interested in going to that school. I have heard nothing but good things, not only about the anesthesia program, but also about the University in general (my uncle is attending there right now and my aunt teaches online classes there). My ICU experience is all NICU. I know you said that PICU is good, but what about NICU? I have also worked at USC Outpatient Surgery and have my MSN in Nursing Education…does those have any pull as far as helping me get an interview? As far as the clinical questions in the interview, are they tailored to fit your area of expertise or would I be required to answer adult ICU type questions? Also, is there such a thing as too many letters of recommendation? Thanks for all of your help! I just found this blog and am having so much fun reading your posts.


  15. David says:


    Thank you for your comment or really questions. Janiece, don’t worry about the NICU experience or the interview. The only clinical questions that should be asked relate to your actual experience. We have had many very successful SRNA’s that come from with NICU experience. Actually, there is some things that you could use to your advantage, mainly weight based dosing. In adult ICU’s usually but not always, the medication dosing is mcg/min or some such thing while in pediatrics it always mcg/kg.

    Just be yourself and have the confidence in yourself that should be born of experience. Nothing else will help.


  16. Kelly says:


    I just thought I would give you an update. I had my interview at Northeastern University on 1/20. It was a tough crowd. I was so nervous I could barely speak at first! I had to stop myself and tell them how nervous I was. It got better after that, and I even saw some personality come out in the interviewers (I believe they were even laughing at one point). They did ask some very specific clinical questions related to a patient I told them about, but I was prepared and able to answer their questions, although for one question I had to stop and think about it and I told them this. They all nodded when I answered anyway, so I assume I did okay. Something weird I have to ask about though is they seemed to act as if they didn’t read my resume. They asked if I had applied to any other programs and I answered no because I wanted to have my CCRN before applying. Their reaction threw me off a little because one of them said “oh you have your CCRN?” like they had no idea. Was this a test to see how I would react? I can’t imagine them not reading my resume before the interview. This left me feeling like I should have told them a lot more that was included in my resume. A friend of mine interviewed there and was told he needed more experience, they didn’t say anything negative during my interview but I still have no idea how to feel about it. Now I have to wait until March to find out about acceptance. I sent them all thank you emails. This school is my first choice and it would be a dream come true to be accepted there. Any thoughts?


  17. Summer Nimmons says:

    Hello David, I absolutely enjoyed reading your article. I do have future plans to become a CRNA, however I am still in the cycle of obtaining my BSN. My question to you is, where are the most beneficial teaching hospitals located? Are there any specific websites that give out that information? I love how you shared that it took you a long time to attain your personal goals because I can totally relate. I am 30 now and I feel like that fire that you speak of is getting much more hot now! Thank you for your attention to my post! Summer Nimmons

  18. David says:


    First off, relax and try not to second guess those who interview you. Just be yourself and trust that what you bring is just what they are looking for. If they are looking for something else you belong somewhere else.

    In our program we absolutely read the cover letters and resume of those we interview. I can not speak to what others do.

    Having the CCRN is a terrific asset and goes a long way for you getting to where you want to be. We have a requirement that any who interview and are not selected for what ever reason are required to have the CCRN the next time they apply. If not, well why bother because we told you that was going to be what we look for in that applicant next time. I have seen a couple of candidates that come back for interviews. The ones that are successful are the ones that follow directions and do what we ask like sit for the CCRNA exam. Those that do not bother are not our students.

    Again Kelly, there is a school for you and I trust that you will be successful. Having the desire and willingness to really go all out is most important part of what it takes to do the hard work. One more thing, don’t judge your interviewers too harshly, they may have hundreds of candidates applying and you mentioning your having the CCRN just reminded them that they need to be more attentive to their part.

    Good luck and keep the goal in view. Do something today, every day, that gets you one step closer to that goal.


  19. Trevor says:


    Thanks for such an inspiring message for those aspiring to become a Nurse Anesthetist. I just promoted to become an Anesthesia Unit Nurse (AU Nurse) here in Singapore. Before I worked in a financing company after I graduated in my Economics degree but things change after 2 years of facing my computer monitor and making my boss wealthier. So I resigned and went for a “finding-myself-road-trip” in an island. So after some drama and realizations, I ended to take up nursing degree. One thing that I discovered while I was a nursing student that time that I wasn’t felt working in an office was FULFILLMENT. I enjoy my nursing class, my clinical training and taking care of people. To make the story short, I was offered a job as an OR Assistant in Singapore after 2 years of failure looking for a nursing job in my home country, Philippines. My colleagues always asking me why I took the job offer to be an OR Assistant even though I was over qualified for the position. My simple answer to them, I need an experience and it would be better if I started from the lowest. But kidding aside, its already my desperate move to be in a nursing career. I can still remember when I was a nursing student and we have our attachment program in the hospital and every time I saw nurses with extraordinary skill and knowledge in the nursing field, I told myself and prayed that someday I want to be like them. Thats why, I was very blessed when I was assigned in OR that of all the hospital departments, working inside OR is the most challenging, tough and envious(some of my classmates) job. For 2 years of working as an OR Assistant, our Assistant of Director of Nursing promoted me to be an Anesthesia Unit Nurse and was very happy to be part of the surgical team. I am not sure if AU Nurse and Nurse Anesthetist are the same work description but one thing that they have in common is they deal in Anesthesia. I know working in Anesthesia needs to have a good knowledge in basics and concepts of anesthesia. Thats what Im working it out right now, since my hospital is just a 100 bed hospital, we dont have much enough background in terms of Anesthesia. As much as possible I can collect some informations, books and references that I can equip myself to have a full knowledge about Anesthesia, Anesthesia Machine, Drugs, etc. I know I still have a long road to take. And all of this happens for a purpose and lots of prayers. My God is very kind enough to give me an opportunity to experience this. Thanks David, for reading this message. I want also to become an inspiration to others. It would be a great help in my part if you can share also your personal and professional experiences on how to become an Anesthesia guy. As a neophyte, I appreciate it. Ill wait for any postings here.


  20. Brit says:

    Mr. David,

    First, thank you for taking time to create this website. It is my home page. Fantastic!

    It’s early in the game for me, but I want to make sure I am on the right track. I’m applying to nursing school soon. In addition to the pre-nursing requirements (i.e. A&P I & II, Microbiology, Nursing Chemistry I & II), I’ve taken Gen Chem I & II, Orgo I & II, Physics I, Zoology, & Mammalian Anatomy & Physiology (year-long course sequence – taught by a former OBGYN – with a focus on the human body systems). I have a 4.0 in these courses. (I’ve never wanted to go to medical school. I just thought these courses would be useful for CRNA school).

    I currently work as a night shift PCT at a large Children’s Hospital, and I volunteered as an EMT for 3 years. Hopefully, I will get into the Honors Nursing program here in my home state (which is a 2-year BSN degree). I’ve been job shadowing a CRNA, and I LOVE IT. I bring journal articles, and we discuss them over lunch (when I am not watching him at work in the OR). Side note: I have a previous degree (in History), so I am a bit older (25 years old).

    My question: How can I prepare myself further to be a stronger candidate for CRNA school? Theoretically, I hope to achieve the following by the time of my application:

    – Nursing school: Honors (Complete a Research Project), High GPA. Possibly start a student nursing journal club. Continue to job shadow CRNAs. Work as PCT.

    – Experience: Get into an ICU position as soon as possible (though I realize that I might have to work in Med-Surg first); Work for 2-4 years; While working, I hope to take Biochemistry I & Analytical Chemistry I as the local university in my home state (if it fits into my schedule). Get PALS, ACLS, BLS, CCRN certified. Continue to job shadow CRNAs. Take GRE.

    Finally, apply! (I’ll be about 31-32 by this time – not that age matters too much! I read somewhere that CRNAs are generally around this age, and/or I won’t be the oldest in a matriculating class).

    There seem to be a lot of steps to getting into CRNA school, and I want to make sure I running in the right direction. Character is a bit hard to convey in stats, but I try to gain wisdom in addition to stats. (And – as Socrates said – I know what I do not know – which is much! I’m working on it though!) I do know that it would be an honor to matriculate into a CRNA program!

    Thank you again for your time and expertise!



  21. Ken says:

    Thank you for your article. I found the information very useful. I am currently employed as a firefighter/paramedic for a large city in the U.S.. I have really enjoyed the medical side of my job and decided to pursue a career in nursing. My plan is to keep my fire department job and work part time in a level 1 ICU on my days off. If I apply to CRNA programs after 2 years of working in the ICU, will I have the required amount of experience? I understand and accept the fact that I would have to leave the FD when I start a CRNA program, but I would like to wait until I know I am accepted before quitting. Unfortunately, this means I could only hold a part time position as an RN. I am trying to figure out the best course of action for someone in my position. Thank you for your time.

  22. Meagan Low says:

    Hi there,

    I saw this post and while I know it’s from 2008, I wanted to let everyone know that there are CRNA positions available in AZ! I am currently recruiting for multiple CRNA positions in AZ, some are locums and locums to permanent. For details please reach out to me at

    Thanks so much!
    ~Meagan Low

  23. WANDA says:

    I have been a critical care nurse x20+yrs…have worked in a surgical ICU x 16yrs @ a 600+bed teaching hospital; travel nurse (MICU) x 7 yrs and presently work in a 200bed hospital MICU. I have a Masters in Critical Care, but do not have my CCRN. However, I do plan to sit for the CCRN soon. What do you think may be an obstacle if not accepted into a CRNA program? Does the interview weigh heavier than the experience?

  24. David says:

    All of your experience counts as well as any recent grades and GRE scores. The interview is a way for us to put it all together with the candidate. What I recommend is to take the CCRN and be yourself in the interviews. Good luck and don’t worry about obstacles. Be determined to succeed and you will.

  25. ashley says:

    I work PICU and PCICU in a large level 1 teaching facility. I have 3 years experience, my CCRN-P, moderate sedation cert, TNCC, PALS, ACLS, and I am also a PALS instructor and unit preceptor. I got a 310 on the GRE, but my undergrad GPA is 3.3 overall, science 3.6. I actually failed one nursing course but retook it and made an A. The F was not averaged into my gpa, but can be seen on the transcript. Will this keep me from being a competitive applicant? I would like to apply as soon as possible without having to take any graduate courses. Thank you

  26. David says:

    Look at the AANA web site under the section, “Become a CRNA” and you will find a lot of helpful information. Here is the link:
    Good luck. It is worth all of the struggle.

  27. David says:

    I did respond to you directly with an email. There is nothing holding you back.

    When evaluating potential candidates for an SRNA program all of the factors come into play. The interview is just one part, an important one however; the candidate is a whole package and the interview helps put all of the rest of the application into perspective for those doing the selecting.

  28. Nani says:

    Dear David,
    I am 51 years old and just now starting school January of 1013 to be a RN. I find myself SO INTERESTED in pursuing it further to CRNA. Will I then be too old? How old is “too old”?

  29. Lady says:

    I’m a student returning to school late in life to be a nurse anesthetist (NA). I want to complete my training but NA programs have a most peculiar requirement (PA programs do too).

    I was floored when I learned I would have to interrupt my education for 1-2 yrs to get experience needed from entry level nursing before being eligible for ICU work. From there, I need at least one yr ICU experience to even qualify to apply to a program.

    I’d have to work 2 yrs entry level before I would even be considered. Then perhaps in a year or 2, I MIGHT be able to land that ICU job-MIGHT.

    No other profession demands you get professional experience before you get more training. It seems backwards.

    Why don’t they include 2 yrs of critical care experience in the NA training?

    Doctors are not required to work before they continue their next phase of training, so why nursing? What is the justification for not training NAs and forcing prospective students to get trained in the work force rather than by nursing educators?

    What is the evidence-based rationale for this practice?

  30. Lady says:

    Why isn’t the critical care experience provided as part of CRNA training?

    Is there an evidence-based reason for forcing nursing students to stop their education for 1-2 yrs in entry-level nursing to step up to 1 yr of ICU experience- if everything goes well?

    What is the rationale for CRNAs to be trained on the job rather than in school? Wouldn’t an additional 12-24 mos of training achieve the same thing?

    (See medical schools)

  31. David says:

    Sorry Lady,
    I understand that being a nurse anesthetist is different than going to medical school and then a residency program. Look at it this way. Physicians need to go to college (4 years) then medical school (4 years) then if they want to do anesthesia another 3 years for a residency program. That is 11 years combined school and clinical training.

    Nurses go to college which is 4 years or more for the BSN then have to get training in the ICU which is another 2 years up to whatever. Then for anesthesia another didactic combined clinical training which is 2 to 3 years. Its just a different setup and there is no way around it.

    No an additional 12 to 24 months in nursing school would not be the same as full time in an ICU for a couple of years.


  32. JZ says:

    Hi David,
    Thank you for this inspirational post. I have researching CRNA for months now and my passion to live in California is what is driving me to you. I am currently a senior in nursing school in NYC with 3.7 GPA, extracurriculars r/t nursing student organization, leadership position in the dormitory as a Residential Adviser, and experience with hospice patients as part of a summer internship. It seems as though I am lacking in many aspects of my application to CRNA school. However, my biggest concern is — in this ever so competitive job market how do you suggest getting my foot into the ICU especially here in NYC? Also, I don’t have the background of physics that is required to get into your program, do you suggest I take this as a postbac class? I am looking forward to your reply.


  33. David says:


    The most important thing is to have a goal and be focused. I talk about this quite a bit in many of the posts. The ICU experience is critical. Many teaching hospitals will have new grad ICU training courses and hire directly into the ICU however some do not. Be proactive and talk to the nurse managers of the ICU’s that you think you would like to work at and ask them what they want in a candidate for the ICU’s. Try to set up interviews now and practice answering questions from a potential hire situation.

    The physics thing is no big deal. You can take a post graduate course later.

    Good luck and let us all know how you are progressing.


  34. BC says:

    Hi David,
    I would like to say thank you for all of the info you have provided on your website about becoming a CRNA. I am currently looking for a shadow experience with a CRNA, would you be available or can you point me in the right direction, thanks.

  35. Kelley Crusius says:

    I was so glad I stumbled across this website while researching CRNA schools- this has been really informative. I am currently working on my application to USC, and was wondering if you had any tips to make it stand out? I am an RN with 5 years of experience in trauma/surgical ICU at a VERY busy level 1 trauma center in Southern Arizona. I have also been cross-trained to the ED, MICU and CVICU. I have a very good GPA, and did well on the GRE. I have my CCRN, ACLS and am an ACLS instructor. I do NOT have my PALS yet. I have peds experience as a school nurse, but no PICU or NICU. What would you recommend as far as the personal statement? Is there any information that the selection committee would like to know, but doesn’t often see in the application? Is there further training or education you would recommend I obtain in the interim? I would really like to attend USC, and I want to be an asset to the program. Thanks for your time. If you can’t tell, I’m excited about the prospect of becoming a CRNA. “Fire in the belly” doesn’t begin to describe it!

  36. aMiamiRN says:

    Dear David,

    So thankful I found your site. Being a CRNA is a dream of mine that I would very much like to make real.

    I have:
    5+ years CVICU experience as an RN.
    3.57 GPA with a Bachelors of Science in Nursing.
    900 on GRE (horrid exam, indicative of nothing).
    ACLS, PALS, NRP, BLS Certification.
    & currently studying for the CCRN.

    Do I have a fair chance at getting an interview? These schools want 1000 minimum on GRE. My fears are many: do I have the salt/backbone to stay in the SRNA program? I know its highly competitive and not a nurturing environment so I hear. I heard of a SRNA that had to take antianxiety meds during school. And, besides working in a traditional hospital OR, what are some alternate areas for a CRNA that you know of?

    Thanks so much for any info you can provide.

  37. David says:


    I think you have a great chance in a competitive market. It sounds like you are doing everything right. Spend the time taking a GRE exam course and spend at least three months preparing for the math section and you should be good to go. The language and writing sections are difficult to prepare for but there are vocabulary books especially designed to improve your scores on the GRE. I recommend both.

    After you succeed in the GRE exam continue to prepare for the CCRN certification. It is always a huge plus during the interview process when the applicant has the CCRN cert. All of our candidates that do not make the cut on the first go around are required to get the CCRN before reapplying.

    Good luck and remember that the journey starts each day with a single step.


  38. Donna says:

    Dear David,
    Thank you for posting an inspiring website. I just received an acceptance letter from one of the CRNA schools that I applied to. I have been a critical care nurse for over 8 years and while I do do a lot of continuing education, I have been out of school that entire time. I am very excited about the prospect of becoming a CRNA, but I must admit that I feel extremely nervous about the financial aspect. I am single, don’t have any children, and have a good support system. I feel ready to pursue an advanced practice degree and it feels like the perfect time, but I am terrified about being out of work for 2 and a half years and taking out major loans. Is this a normal feeling?? Any and all advice is much appreciated.

  39. Ousman says:

    Hi David I sincerely thank you for your advice in this website. Becoming a CRNA is my dream since I started nursing school. I am an ADN trained nurse and currently pursuing my BSN. I currently working in Cardiac Telemetry Stepdown Unit but about to start my ICU work in two weeks but at Community Hospital as it is difficult to get teaching hospital ICU job here(Raleigh-Durham Triangle region of NC)for a nurse with less than one year experience. My plan is to get one year experience at community hospital ICU and apply to Teaching Hospital ICU and have another year experience there before apllying to CRNA school. Then my questions are
    1) Will the school CRNA admission committee gives me credit for my community hospital ICU experience when considering my two years ICU experience requirement?
    2) I have only preparatory chemistry which was the only chemistry require for my ADN program, will that affect me when looking into my academic qualifications?

  40. David says:


    Community ICU experience is considered a weakness but with year or two at a major teaching institution you should be fine. Experience is very important. We see it every day in the clinical rotations so get the best experience you can.

    Most programs ask for biochem and organic chemistry. Sometimes these are offered as one semester course but you have to look at the requirements of each institution that you are planning on applying to.

    Good luck and let us all know how you are progressing.


  41. David says:


    Email sent.


  42. Lila says:

    Dear David,

    I have a question for you. I am wondering if age might be a barrier for applying to NA school? I will be in my early 50’s before I have meant all the requirements. I have been on a step-down cardiac floor with med-surg over flow. I have done virtually all cardiac drips on my current floor. I am going to transition into the ICU, concentrating on CT surgery patients. I work in a level 1 trauma center, which is also a teaching hospital. I went back to school late in life, as “I had to get my duck all in a row.” I have two bachelor degrees, one is B.A. major was psychology and the other is my B.S.N. My cumulative GPA is over a 3.0. I took A&P over 13 years ago and was going through a divorce at the time and basically received the minimum grade of “C,” however, I did quite well in the other sciences, such as chemistry, my math scores are solid as well. I have the desire and the passion to get this done! I am a driven person. I consistently do a good job, I am patient centered and love my job. I do a great deal of overtime, I feel this is how I am able to acquire more hours of learning in my practice. I have two questions for you. What do you think my chances are of getting accepted into the program at my age? Also, do you think I can get accepted with my past A&P grades? Thank you for taking the time to read this.


  43. Mike says:

    I have close to 8 years ICU experince, 6 years experience at a major teaching hospital in CVICU, a 309 on GRE, but my GPA is around a 3.4 and my science GPA is about a 3.2,I have my CCRN, ACLS, and will be getting my PALS soon. Will my GPA ruin my chances for school?

  44. David says:

    When looking at candidates, its the whole picture not one number that makes the difference. We have seen some candidates that are perfect on paper but in person something does not work – and the other way around. Some of our alternates that get in have done so exceptionally well throughout the program we have hired them. There is just no way to look at one number such as your GPA and make a determination about whether or not you will do well once in a program.

    No your GPA of 3.4 will not stop you.


  45. David says:

    Email sent.
    Good luck and don’t let anything hold you back.

  46. Lady says:

    Appreciate you taking time to respond- but the question was left unanswered. No one has been able to answer this important question..

    What is the evidence-based rationale for SRNAs to have experience before training rather than providing the experience as part of training as most professions do?

    Doesn’t it make sense for nursing education to include the skills and knowledge students receive to continue their education to the next level?

  47. David Roy says:


    Your question has been answered many times. Nursing education at each level does prepare the student for the next level however nurse anesthesia requires additional experience. Look at it this way. In medical education there is four years of premed science and perhaps a masters degree in a related field then four years of medical school. After medical school there is residency which is practical experience in medical training. After that perhaps a fellowship before practice. That is a lot of education and training. Not all of that education / training is didactic but clinical experience as well. So it is with nurse anesthesia but shorter. For the most part the process for nurse anesthesia is limited and much of the science is curtailed with just the basics covered. Once an RN has graduated it is extremely important to receive additional training in a ICU before advancing to the next level if nurse anesthesia is the goal. There are reams of diatribe on the internet extolling or bashing each side. I am not into that at all. Each discipline has its strengths and weaknesses. Yes physicians have their weaknesses. However, to get to the heart of your your question, without additional experience a new graduate RN is not in a position to take up anesthesia training on any level just as a new graduate MD is not ready without residency to take up practice.

  48. Hopefully says:

    I graduated with a BSN in June 2012, started my ICU position December 2012. I am going to start applying to CRNA schools this fall. I have heard and read the many opinions concerning my lack of experience and the difficulties I will have, both getting in, and surviving the program with such little experience. I am now in my forties and I have noticed that learning comes at a slower rate than in my twenties. I simultaneously received my MBA and BSN, while keeping my GPA above 3.5. However, my studying time just for the nursing courses was double that of my younger roommates who both graduated with 4.0. My concern with keeping pace with the program and my desire to be a CRNA keeps me focused and determined.

    I plan to take the CCRN and CMC this fall; with the overtime I keep accumulating, I will have the necessary hours. I will also take Chemistry class(es) prior to the start of the program to ensure a more recent foundation. I have read the many opinions on the subject of chemistry and physics, without a clear direction. What Chemistry class(es) should I take and at what level, associates, bachelors, masters?

    In addition, because I am on the west coast and my odds of getting in are greatly diminished I will be applying to as many places as I can afford to do so. Are there any particular programs or states that you feel will increase my odds?

  49. David Roy says:


    I loved your questions and passion. Do not ask me when I started to go back for another masters and the CRNA program. If I had to guess I was the oldest graduate of our program in its history. However, I still was #1 academically in my class and received honors at graduation. I do not think that was because I was the smartest or the whatever. What it is ……. is passion and “fire in the belly”. If you have that you will succeed.

    However, I do have a definite opinion on experience. Do NOT short change yourself. Get the ICU experience and succeed at the CCRN before you apply. For those that I interview with one year of experience I suggest that they do the CCRN and show me something why they should be in the program over those with 5 or more years of sound practice AND CCRN. Every minute that you are working and serving patients, make sure you are learning something/.

    When you can call the Resident and tell them what to do then and only then are you ready to apply to a CRNA program. That is my opinion.

    You have to be better.


  50. Nick says:

    Hi David

    Ian currently working in a MICU for about a year and wanted to start prepping to get into crna schools. I plan on taking my ccrn test by the end of the year and am acls certified. I have a BS in biochemistry (gpa 3.63), and BS in nursing (gpa 3.23). I plan on applying to crna school for 2015 so I have to start applying by next spring. So by the time I apply, I have 2 years of icu experience. I also plan on shadowing a crna to make sure that this is what I want to pursue my career in.

    1. Should I take the gre s even though its not required by some schools?
    2. What are my chances to get into crna schools?
    3. Is there anything else I should do within the next year to boost up my résumé?

    Thank you,!


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