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    CRNA School: Top 10 Programs of 2019

    Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) belong to one of the most in-demand Advanced Practice Nursing specialties. As such, they are also the highest-paid nurses. The latest Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the average income of a nurse anesthetist to be $169,450 per year, with some CRNAs earning over $252,000 per year in Montana.

    There are currently 42,620 registered CRNAs in the United States with a projected rise of 31% from 2016-2026. By 2026, the BLS predicates there will be 48,600 CRNAs. 

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    FAQ 

    • How long are Nurse Anesthetist programs? 
      • Programs are typically 36 months or 9 semesters full time. Part-time is not an option for this program.
    • What are the basic educational/experience requirements to become a CRNA? 
      • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) or Masters of Science in Nursing (MSN)
      • Registered Nurse License (RN)
      • Critical Care/ICU Experience (minimum of 2-3 years)
      • Cardiac Catheterization Lab, Long Term Acute Care Hospital, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Post Anesthesia Care Unit do NOT count towards ICU experience
      • GPA of 3.0 or higher 
      • Life Support Certifications (BLS, ACLS, PALS)
      • Combined minimum GRE of 300 or better
    • What is CRNA salary?
      • Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) reports the average income of a nurse anesthetist to be $169,450 per year, with some CRNAs earning over $252,000. Top earning states include Montana, Wyoming, and California.
    • Can you become a Nurse Anesthetist online? 
      • No. Some programs offer didactic coursework in an online format but all students must attend in-person skills fairs at a minimum. Furthermore, CRNA school requires practicums which must be completed in person.
    • What classes can I expect to take in CRNA school?
      • Classes are a mix of pharmacology, pathophysiology, leadership, research, and health assessment. 
    • What degrees can I earn after graduation from CRNA school?
      • Graduates can earn a Master of Science in Nursing, Doctor of Nursing Practice, or Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice. 

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    CRNA Scope of Practice

    According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) identifies the following as responsibilities of nurse anesthetists:

    • Administering anesthesia during surgical, therapeutic, diagnostic, and obstetric procedures
    • Performing epidural, spinal, or nerve blocks
    • Providing care before, during, and after anesthesia
    • Examining patients’ medical histories for allergies or illnesses to ensure safe provision of pain management
    • Managing a patient’s airway and pulmonary status
    • Implementing acute and chronic pain management modalities. 
    • Facilitating emergence and recovery from anesthesia by selecting, obtaining, ordering and administering medications, fluids, and ventilatory support. 
    • Discharging the patient from a postanesthesia care area and providing postanesthesia follow-up evaluation and care. 
    • Discussing any contraindications or side effects of anesthesia with patients
    • Monitoring vital signs during medical procedures

    CRNA Work Environments

    CRNAs typically work in healthcare settings that have operating rooms, emergency rooms, and intensive care units. These may include,

    • Medical and surgical hospitals
    • Critical access hospitals
    • Mobile surgery centers
    • Outpatient care centers
    • Offices of plastic surgeons, dentists, ophthalmologists, pain management specialists, and other medical professionals
    • U.S. military medical facilities

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    CRNA Program Accreditation

    The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Education (COA) is the main accrediting body for nurse anesthesia programs in the United States. The COA runs a comprehensive database of all accredited programs. These programs often change and some programs do lose accreditation. 

    Similar to BSN programs, accreditation is essential because an individual will not be able to sit for their national CCRN examination if they have not graduated from an accredited program. While the COA is the main accrediting body, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) are also often involved. 

    There are two main reasons for accreditation: 

    • Ensure quality assessment 
    • Assist in quality improvement. 

    As the main governing body of CRNA programs, the objectives of the COA are as follows,

    • Promulgate standards of accreditation for nurse anesthesia graduate programs with input from the communities of interest. 
    • Periodically assess programs for compliance with accreditation standards through annual reports, self-studies, site visits, and progress reports. 
    • Confer and publish accreditation decisions for programs and institutions of nurse anesthesia. 
    • Require programs to routinely provide reliable performance and information data to the public. 
    • Write policies and procedures defining the accreditation process and procedure. 
    • Facilitate the development of new nurse anesthesia programs. 
    • Offer consultation concerning nurse anesthesia education to enhance academic quality. 
    • Conduct collaborative reviews with other accrediting agencies. 
    • Conduct discussions with federal and state governmental agencies concerning accreditation. 
    • Participate in a systematic self-assessment of the standards, policies, and procedures of accreditation to ensure accuracy and reliability
    • Provide accurate information concerning the accreditation process and its accredited programs. 
    • Consider legitimate allegations from complainants concerning the accreditation process. 
    • Employ appropriate and fair procedures in decision-making. 
    • Ensure the academic quality of distance and traditional educational offerings

    The COA is an essential part of CRNA programs. They are responsible for all changes in curriculum and requirements. Understanding the purpose of the COA is essential for nurses interested in becoming a nurse anesthetist. 

    Requirements For Application 

    Regardless of which path you decide to take, there are several things that CRNA programs require from their applicants. It is important to meet the requirements or schools will reject the application. These include:

    • Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN)
    • Registered Nurse License (RN)
    • Critical Care/ICU Experience
      • Cardiac Catheterization Lab, Long Term Acute Care Hospital, Neonatal Intensive Care Unit, Post Anesthesia Care Unit do NOT count towards ICU experience
    • GPA of 3.0 or higher (Each school has a different minimum requirement but 3.0 is the lowest accepted GPA)
    • Life Support Certifications (BLS, ACLS, PALS)
    • Resume
    • Combined minimum GRE of 300 or better
    • Test of English as a Foreign Language (TOEFL) if applicable
    • Shadow experience of a CRNA and an accompanying essay
    • Nursing Certifications (CCRN, RNC)
    • Personal Essay and Interview
    • Application Fee

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    CRNA Classes

    CRNA programs, regardless of whether an individual will earn their MSN, DNP, or DNAP, are all extremely time-consuming. Students are highly discouraged to work as they expected to spend about 60 hours a week studying and preparing for class on top of time in class. During practicum, students have call time and work full-time hours while still taking classes. Some programs will offer a stipend to students. 

    Students can expect to take courses such as:

    • Applied Statistics for Evidence-Based Practice
    • The Science of Health Care Delivery
    • Introduction to Genetics and Molecular Therapeutics
    • Advanced Pathophysiology
    • Survey of Pharmacotherapeutics
    • Pathophysiology of Abdominal Systems for Nurse Anesthesia
    • Leadership and the CRNA Role 
    • Ethics/Billing & Coding/Policy 
    • Respiratory and Cellular Pathophysiology for Nurse Anesthesia
    • Applied Theory for Nurse Anesthesia Practice
    • Applied Clinical Learning in Nurse Anesthesia
    • Clinical Integration Concepts 
    • Professional Communication and Informatics
    • Advanced Pharmacology
    • Research for Evidence-Based Practice

    Most CRNA programs offer only on-campus programs. There are only a handful of programs that allow online education. Programs such as Virginia Commonwealth University and the University of Cincinnati offer a handful of classes online but the remainder is completed in the classroom. 

    The entire CRNA program can never be completed solely online as extensive clinical practicums are required for graduation. 

    CRNA Certification

    After graduating from an accredited nurse anesthetist program, individuals will be able to take their National Certification Exam (NCE) administered by the National Board Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA).

    The NCE is a computerized test consisting of between 100-170 test questions (includes 30 random, non-graded test questions). Preliminary exam results are delivered immediately following completion of the exam. Official results are mailed 2-4 weeks after the exam. The cost of the exam is $995.

    According to the NBCRNA, in 2018, 3,053 individuals took the exam with a first-time pass rate of 84.3%.

    Test takers have three hours to complete the exam, which includes questions related to:

    • Basic sciences (25 percent)
    • Equipment, instrumentation, technology (15 percent)
    • Basic principles of anesthesia (30 percent)
    • Advanced principles of anesthesia (30 percent)

    After successfully passing the NCE, individuals must apply for an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse (APRN) license in the state they wish to practice. There is no additional examination for this but there are fees and paperwork. CRNAs can hold multiple state licenses similar to an RN license. 

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    Top 10 CRNA Programs

    The demand for CRNAs is only continuing to grow. Nurses who attend the best schools have access to better opportunities upon graduation. While there are numerous programs throughout the country, these schools ranked at the top based on reputation, certification pass rate, cost, accreditation, and acceptance rates.

    While rankings are important to consider when applying to a program, it is also important to determine which is the best fit for you. 

    Here are the 10 best CRNA programs in the United States in no particular order:

    Rush University -  Chicago, Illinois

    Degree Earned: DNP

    Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

    Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus

    Online: No

    Cost: $1110 per credit hour

    Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 72%

     

    Mayo Clinic College of Health and Sciences - Rochester, Minnesota

    Degree Earned: DNAP

    Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

    Length of Time: 42 months Full-Time On-Campus

    Online: No

    Cost: $61,062 (total cost)

    Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 84%

     

    Duke University - Durham, North Carolina 

    Degree Earned: DNP

    Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

    Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus

    Online: No

    Cost: $26,535 per semester or $1,838 per credit hour

    Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 100%

     

    Villanova University - Villanova, Pennsylvania

    Degree Earned: DNP

    Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

    Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus

    Online: No

    Cost: $94,000 (total cost)

    Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 83%

     

    Georgetown University - Washington, D.C.

    Degree Earned: DNAP

    Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

    Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus

    Online: No

    Cost: $118,290 (total cost)

    Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 100%

     

    Baylor College of Medicine - Houston, Texas

    Degree Earned: DNP

    Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

    Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus

    Online: No

    Cost: $111,835 (total cost)

    Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 88.46%

     

    Virginia Commonwealth University - Richmond, Virginia

    Degree Earned: DNAP

    Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

    Length of Time: 9 semesters full time

    Online: Semesters 1 & 2 core classes can be completed online (on-campus session required at the start of each semester)

    Cost: $141,021 (total cost)

    Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 83%

     

    Columbia University - New York, New York

    Degree Earned: MSN (Plans to convert to DNP Program)

    Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

    Length of Time: 27 months Full-Time On-Campus

    Online: No

    Cost: $65,884 per year

    Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 94%

     

    The University of Cincinnati - Cincinnati, Ohio

    Degree Earned: DNP

    Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

    Length of Time: 36 months of Full-Time 

    Online: Yes (Select courses)

    Cost: 

    $13,578.25 per semester (out of state), 

    $7,707.25 per semester (in-state)

    Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 91%

     

    Northeastern University - Boston, Massachusetts

    Degree Earned: DNP

    Accreditation: Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs

    Length of Time: 36 months Full-Time On-Campus

    Online: No

    Cost: $1,500 per credit hour

    Examination pass rate (1st attempt): 100%

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