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How Do I Become a Nurse Anesthetist?

Nicole Etolen
Nicole Etolen

To become a nurse anesthetist, you will need a master’s degree in nursing, a license to practice as a nurse, and some experience in the critical-care field. In addition, you will need to complete a certification program and pass a test that proves you are ready to work in the field. Once you have all your education requirements taken care of, you can start applying for positions.

There are several levels of education in the nursing field, from certificate programs all the way up to doctoral degrees. While you can perform numerous jobs with just an associate’s degree in nursing, if you want to become a nurse anesthetist, you typically need to obtain a master’s degree. Many nurses choose to start with just a two-year degree and work in the field while they continue their education. This is a good option if you need to start working as soon as possible, and in some cases, your employer may pay some of the expenses involved in obtaining a higher degree.

Man with hands on his hips
Man with hands on his hips

After completing you basic education and passing the licensing exam to work as a registered nurse, you will need to spend some time gaining experience in nursing. Most facilities require you to have one year of experience in critical-care in order to become a nurse anesthetist, and most critical-care units require you to have some experience in other areas of nursing, so you may need to spend several years building up your experience. Consider getting started in the field after obtaining your bachelor’s degree and working towards your master’s simultaneously to save time.

Most certification programs require you to work as an intern before you can become a nurse anesthetist. While many internships are unpaid or very low-paying positions, if you are already working at a hospital you may be able to get a paid internship. Keep in mind that the internship is very demanding both physically and mentally, so you may want to take a leave of absence from your full-time job or cut back on your hours.

While the education requirements prepare you to become a nurse anesthetist by giving you the basic tools to succeed, your personality and other traits will play a large role in helping you obtain a position. A nurse anesthetist must be extremely alert and able to focus on monitoring the patient for the slightest changes in vital signs. While the majority of surgeries will most likely pass without incident, you must be prepared to react immediately if something does go wrong. Working well with others is a major job requirement, as every surgery requires good teamwork.

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