Steps to Go From BSN to CRNA

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Written by Morganne Skinner, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
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Reviewed by Ayana Dunn, BSN Content Writer, IntelyCare
CRNA comforting patient

Does solving problems and thinking on your feet energize you? Are you constantly learning and striving for excellence? Do you remain calm under pressure and excel in critical thinking? If so, going from having a bachelor of science in nursing to being a certified registered nurse anesthetist (BSN to CRNA) may be the perfect next step in your nursing career.

What Is a CRNA?

A certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA) is a registered nurse (RN) with an advanced practice degree. They are trained to administer anesthesia for surgery and pain relief.

The demand for this role is growing — the Bureau of Labor Statistics projects this career will grow 12% in the next ten years.

Nurse anesthetists play a vital role in the healthcare setting. Whether it was your encounters with nurse anesthetists or their excellent job security that inspired you to pursue this career path, we’re glad you’re here. We will explain exactly what you need to know.

What Does a CRNA Do?

CRNAs administer and manage anesthesia for patients undergoing surgery, delivering babies, or experiencing pain. Practically speaking, a CRNA will assess patients before, during, and after providing care.

For example, they may meet with a patient before surgery, provide education, and answer any questions. During surgery, they will administer anesthesia, monitor the patient’s vital signs, and maintain their airway. After surgery, the CRNA will monitor the patient’s status and manage their pain relief.

What Does a CRNA Make?

A CRNA is one of the top 10 highest-paying nursing jobs. The median annual salary for a CRNA is $195,610.

How Long Does It Take to Go From BSN to CRNA?

The length it takes to obtain your CRNA will depend on where you are in your nursing career. Generally, it takes a total of 7–10 years.

What Education and Training Is Needed to Go From BSN to CRNA?

The steps of going from BSN to CRNA are pretty simple — and luckily, you have many options along the way. Paths will vary depending on where you want to practice, what program you choose, and how quickly you want to become a CRNA.

1. Obtain Your BSN

Your first step in the BSN to CRNA process is to obtain your BSN. You have a few options to do this. You can enroll in a BSN program, which typically takes four years to complete.

You can first obtain an associate’s degree in nursing (ADN), which takes about two years, and then obtain your BSN. If you became a RN after earning your ADN, you could enroll in a RN-BSN program, which can take one to two years.

If you are a licensed practical nurse (LPN), you can enroll in an LPN-BSN bridge program. These programs typically take two to three years, because credits earned in the LPN program are applied to the BSN program.

If you have a bachelor’s degree in another field, you could enroll in a fast track program to get your BSN. These programs allow you to use credits earned in your current bachelor’s degree and apply them to the BSN.

2. Become a RN

After you’ve completed your nursing education, your next step is to take the national licensing exam, NCLEX-RN, and obtain your RN license. The NCLEX-RN is a mandatory requirement to begin practicing as a RN in your state. It is a computerized test that will assess your competence in:

  • Management of care
  • Pharmacological and parenteral therapies
  • Physiological adaptation
  • Reduction of risk potential
  • Safety and infection control
  • Health promotion and maintenance
  • Psychosocial integrity
  • Basic care and comfort

3. Gain Critical Care Experience

Start practicing as a RN and gain critical care experience. Sometimes you can start working in acute care, such as the intensive care unit (ICU). Other times, your employer will require a foundation of nursing experience before you can work in critical care. This varies employer to employer and facility to facility.

As a CRNA, you must demonstrate competence and ability in managing acute, critical situations. So before you are eligible to enroll in your CRNA program, you must have one year of full-time critical care experience, though two or more years is preferred. Examples of critical care settings include:

  • Intensive care unit
  • Surgical intensive care unit
  • Coronary care unit
  • Pediatric intensive care unit
  • Medical intensive care unit

Some CRNA programs prefer nurses who also have a critical care certification, such as the CCRN. You can obtain this certification once you have critical care experience by taking an exam through the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses (AACN).

4. Enroll in a CRNA Program

Your next step is to enroll in one of the many available BSN to CRNA programs. These programs will prepare you to earn a doctor in nursing practice (DNP) or doctor of nurse anesthesia practice (DNAP) degree. Ensure the program you choose is accredited. Look for programs accredited by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs.

It typically takes two to three years to complete a CRNA program. Online classes are available at some schools, but expect to do lab work and clinical practice in person.

Most programs will require about 2,500 clinical hours during the nursing anesthesia program. Teaching hospitals will allow CRNA students to gain their clinical hours in their facility. If you attend a program unassociated with a teaching hospital, your school will help you find a facility to complete these hours.

5. Take Certification Exam

Just like you needed to earn a license to practice as a RN, you’ll also need a license to legally practice as a CRNA. Once you’ve completed your CRNA program, you’ll need to pass the National Certification Exam (NCE) offered by the National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).

This exam will assess your competence in the skills and knowledge required to administer anesthesia for surgical procedures and special populations, equipment and technology, and general anesthesia principles.

To learn more, read our comprehensive article about how to become a nurse anesthetist.

6. Start Working as a CRNA

Are you excited to begin putting your new skills to work? Common places you might work include:

  • Hospitals
  • Dentist offices
  • Surgery centers
  • Other outpatient care centers

Ready to Start Your Program?

Let IntelyCare join you on your journey from BSN to CRNA by giving you control over your schedule so you can devote time to your studies. Learn more and start your application today.