Calling All Nurse Anesthetists


A few months ago I received a very nice letter by way of a comment to one of my blog postings from James a nursing student in Australia. He, like many of us, has questions about the profession of Nurse Anesthesia here in the United States. Most people, not to mention those inside of medicine and its related specialties, have never heard of Nurse Anesthesia let alone could describe what it is that they do. The idea that over 50% of all of the general anesthetics in this country are administered by a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), some report up to 65%, is a thought that has never entered the consciousness of the average person. So who are these CRNA’s, where do they come from and what is the preparation that goes into becoming a Nurse Anesthetist? Big questions and far too few answers. Below is James original comment/post and a beginning of a response from me.

Hi David…
I have just finished skimming through your Blog. I am an undergrad nursing student who found your site while researching Nurse Anesthetists for a future career. I have some questions and I am not sure where I should post them. Anyway, it’s about the admission criteria for the MSN program. My undergrad marks should be very strong by full graduation time, but I would like to know what is the average amount of years of experience you and your peers have had in ICU-related nursing? Is anyone in that program with only the bare minimum of one year experience? If this is not the appropriate place to ask questions then is there an email address I could have for further discussion. Thank you for your assistance in these matters, it is quite difficult for me to find information from the other side of the world, Australia.
Your reply would be much appreciated.

Hello James

Thank you James for your thoughtful inquiry and questions concerning Nurse Anesthesia. I got your message and wanted to reply to you directly but you did not leave an Email address so the only way to give you an acknowledgment and answer to your questions is here in the blog directly. You may email me anytime at for a more personal response.

I too did a lot of research into which were the best schools for Nurse Anesthesia. Beginning with the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), I explored many of the web sites of the schools here in the United States that are listed under Certified Programs. In the web pages of the AANA is a document describing what Nurse Anesthetists are at a glance. I guess that is the best place to start.

James, you asked about clinical preparation before being eligible to enter a program of Nurse Anesthesia. The requirement for admission to any school in the US is at least one year of critical care nursing. Different schools interpret what “critical care” is differently. All of them accept intensive care units (ICU) as critical care and exclude all else including Emergency Room experience or Post Anesthesia Care Units (PACU) while other programs are more liberal and examine each person’s application for experience in critical care individually. My advise is to explore the AANA’s web site and the schools that you like to find what a prospective school requires.

The answer to your question about only one year of experience is yes. There are some students that are accepted into Nurse Anesthesia programs with just one year or a year and a half of clinical experience. This may be because the rest of their application is exceptional while for others like myself it takes many years of ICU experience to get ready to apply. Do not be intimidated is the main thing. Get the experience that you need and go for your goal, period.

Academic requirements for most schools include an upper division course in statistics, physics and a year of chemistry including organic and biochemistry as part of your undergraduate nursing program. Many undergraduate programs do not include these as part of their curriculum so adding them now is very important if your goal is to go into Nurse Anesthesia here in the United States. Again, research the individual programs in the AANA web site directory for their requirements.

Finally, it becomes a little bit of a problem for foreign students coming to the US. I advise calling any prospective school now and to talk to the director of the program to see what you can do to make your transcripts attractive and acceptable to their respective programs. I have a friend here in the States who has a Nursing degree from Australia. She has to take classes here to establish a grade point average and to make up some deficiencies including the statistics, physics and chemistry before her application is accepted by a Nurse Anesthesia program here.

One last point about the application process here in the US. Most school require a minimum score on the Graduate Record Exam (GRE). This can stumbling block unless you prepare for it wisely. There are review courses here including Kaplan and the Princeton Review for the GRE. They all are worth while if you are serious about doing well on the GRE.

I hope that some of this helps. There is so much more to talk about but space and time do not permit now. The books that I have found to be essential for anesthesia practice are listed above in the Library Page. Good luck James and follow your dream. I have been struggling with climbing this mountain for a while now and appreciate anyone who wants to do more and make an impact on the world. The bottom line is that as a Nurse Anesthetist your input into patient care becomes very important and valued highly.

Categories : Anesthesia, Student Life


  1. giners says:

    I am a first year SRNA at USC in California.
    I knew before I started nursing school that anesthesia was where I wanted to be. While I loved working in ER, I chose my first nursing job in ICU, because I knew I would need experience with invasive monitoring (PA catheters and arterial lines) vasoactive drips, and ventilators. Those were my priorities. I would have started NA school after only a year, but decided to have a baby instead, which pushed back my plans. But the time in ICU was well spent, and I don’t regret one day of it.

    There are students in our class who come from an ER background, and they will be the first to tell you that they feel intimidated by some of the ICU type stuff with which they are unfamiliar, but they are doing just fine and we will all graduate as safe and competent anesthetists. I know one CRNA who had all of two months experience when she started the NA program, and she is a fine and knowledgable anesthetist.

    I agree with David that the best thing you can do for yourself right now is to meet with or speak on the phone with several program directors, fax them your CV and ask where you could strengthen it. I did this before I graduated and it gave me a very clear plan of action.

    I wish you all of the best in your endeavors. Do not give up. This is the first test of many regarding your perseverance and determination. You must really want this, and don’t let anything stop you.
    gina wald, dc, bsn, ccrn

  2. propofolguy says:


    I’m a Portuguese Nurse and just like James i would like to become a CRNA!
    I worked one year in the Anesthesiology Department of my Hospital here in Lisbon (Portugal), do you think that would be accepted as clinical experience?!

    And congratulations by the way!!! Yo’re a CRNA!!!!


  3. Glad I came across this website. I got a lot of useful information. Keep up the great job.


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