Nursing Degrees & Schools / RN to CRNA
Many nurses who have logged some experience in the field find they would like to advance their career by changing their nursing specialty. This could include changing to a higher-level nursing position that requires more skills and responsibilities.
One of these possibilities is to go from an RN to a CRNA, or Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. These highly trained nurses are able to provide anesthesia and pain control to patients. There are several things to consider if you are thinking about making this transition. To help you, we’ve put together some details here for you to easily review, including:
- What are some reasons to become a CRNA?
- What are the differences in responsibilities?
- What are the steps to becoming a CRNA?
- How much do CRNA programs cost?
What are some reasons to become a CRNA?
You probably already have some reasons you are thinking about becoming a CRNA, and there might even be a few you don’t know about! Let’s expand a little more on the possible reasons this could be a good choice for you.
According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, the job openings for CRNAs are projected to grow 40% from 2021 to 2031. Job growth for RNs is projected to be 6% between 2021 and 2031.
Although the job outlook for a CRNA looks great, what about the salary of a CRNA? The great news is that CRNAs make an average salary of $202,470 per year. As a registered nurse, you can expect an average salary of $82,750.
For both CRNAs and RNs, education, experience, and where you live depend on how much you make as a nurse. But, even some of the highest registered nurse salaries don’t come close to the salary of a CRNA.
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What are the differences in responsibilities?
Being a registered nurse certainly requires a high level of responsibility, but a CRNA has a substantially higher amount of authority. This is reflected in the type of advanced practice degree required. These are some key differences between the responsibilities in both roles:
|Responsibilities of an RN||Responsibilities of a CRNA|
|Does not prescribe medications||May prescribe medications|
|Assists with procedures||May perform invasive procedures such as spinal anesthesia|
|Cannot write orders||Orders procedures, tests, and treatments|
|Has limitations on what types of care they can supervise||Can legally supervise care delivered by RNs|
|Cannot deliver anesthesia to patients||Delivers anesthesia to patients|
What are the steps to becoming a CRNA?
The steps involved in becoming a CRNA are a big commitment, as it is a rigorous course of study. Here are some details you’ll need to know before making the leap:
The most basic requirement on the path to a CRNA is to become a registered nurse and gain some critical care experience. From there, you’ll have to advance your degree to a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP). You can do this in a couple of ways:
- BSN to DNP – if you already have your Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN), you can enroll in a BSN to DNP program.
- MSN to DNP -if you already have your Master of Science in Nursing (MSN), you can enroll in an MSN to DNP program.
Applying to CRNA programs
CRNA programs are intensely competitive and have stringent requirements that you must meet to be eligible to apply for enrollment. If you’re serious about pursuing a CRNA, you’ll need to be sure you review these goalposts:
- A BSN at a minimum
- At least one year of acute care experience
- A minimum of 300 on the GRE
- At least a 3.0 GPA
How much do CRNA programs cost?
According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology, the median cost of a CRNA program is $51,720. This is in addition to meeting the educational prerequisites you’ll need before starting the program.
How to pay for it
The first step to funding your enrollment in a CRNA program is to fill out your Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA). This will tell you what federal grants and loans you qualify for. You can also search for scholarships that you might be eligible for, to help offset any cost you may have to repay. Private loans are also an option.
Making the final decision to pursue a CRNA is a big one. It can help to write out the pros and cons as they relate to your situation. Sometimes seeing them on paper can help solidify your choices.
Advancing to a CRNA isn’t the only option you can choose from, but after researching different nursing roles and exploring other nursing career resources, you may find yourself consistently drawn to this niche.
To answer any lingering questions you may have, it can be helpful to talk with other nursing professionals that have had experience in the role, to get their thoughts and feedback on their career path as a CRNA.
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The most significant difference between the two fields is that CRNAs are recognized as part of nursing practice, and anesthesiologists are recognized as part of the practice of medicine (MD). They provide the same quality of care to patients, but in some states CRNAs must be supervised by physicians. In other states, they are allowed to practice independently, much like an anesthesiologist.
Including the time, it takes to earn a BSN, you can expect the process of earning a CRNA to take a minimum of 7-8.5 calendar years.
CRNAs are valued in any medical setting where anesthesia care is needed. This includes hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, dentist offices, medical clinics, and many others.
- “Applying to a Nurse Anesthesia Program.” aana.com. Accessed August 6, 2022.
- “Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists Fact Sheet.” aana.com. Accessed August 7, 2022.
- “Complete the FAFSA.” studentaid.gov. Accessed August 6, 2022.
- “Cost of education and earning potential for non-physician anesthesia providers.” nih.gov. Accessed August 6, 2022.
- “GRE.” ets.org. Accessed October 27, 2022.
- “Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics: Nurse Anesthetists.” bls.gov. Accessed August 6, 2022.
- “Occupational Employment and Wage Statistics: Registered Nurses.” bls.gov. Accessed August 6, 2022.
- “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Nurse Anesthetists, Nurse Midwives, and Nurse Practitioners.” bls.gov. Accessed August 6, 2022
- “Occupational Outlook Handbook: Registered Nurses.” bls.gov. Accessed August 6, 2022.
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