Education of Nurse Anesthetists in the United States - At a Glance

The education and experience required to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) include:

  • A baccalaureate or graduate degree in nursing or an appropriate major.
  • An unencumbered license as a registered professional nurse and/or APRN in the United States or its territories.
  • A minimum of one year full-time work experience, or its part-time equivalent, as a registered nurse in a critical care setting.
  • Graduation with a minimum of a master’s degree from a nurse anesthesia educational program accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA). As of August 2016, there were 115 accredited nurse anesthesia programs in the United States using more than 2,100 active clinical sites; 46 nurse anesthesia programs are approved to award doctoral degrees for entry into practice. Nurse anesthesia programs range from 24-42 months, depending on university requirements. Programs include clinical settings and experiences.
  • Pass the National Certification Examination following graduation.

It takes a minimum of seven calendar years of education and experience to prepare a CRNA.

More than 2,400 student registered nurse anesthetists graduate each year and go on to pass the National Certification Examination to become CRNAs.

In 1990, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services published findings indicating a growing need for additional nurse anesthetists. The present day workforce numbers more than 52,000 CRNAs.

Historical Background
Nurse anesthetists were among the first specialty nurses to require continuing education. CRNAs must be recertified every four years, which includes meeting practice requirements and obtaining a minimum of 100 continuing education credits.

The first organized program in nurse anesthesia education was offered in 1909.

The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) implemented a certification program in 1945 and instituted mandatory recertification in 1978. The first certification examination was administered in 1945 to 92 candidates.

In 1952, AANA established a mechanism for accreditation of nurse anesthesia educational programs that has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education since 1955.

Recently, the AANA and the School of Nurse Anesthesia at Texas Christian University in Fort Worth, Texas, began offering an advanced pain management fellowship to prepare CRNAs with the skills necessary to meet the pain management needs of Americans with chronic pain. The Advanced Pain Management Certificate Program is accredited by the COA, and graduates are eligible to take a certification examination on Non-Surgical Pain Management offered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists.

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Last updated: December 21, 2016