COA accreditation standards require four years of professional nursing education; a baccalaureate; RN licensure; and at least one year of acute care experience as a professional RN during which the RN developed as an independent decision-maker capable of interpreting and using advanced monitoring techniques based on knowledge of physiological and pharmacological principles. Actual admission requirements of COA-accredited programs are commonly more stringent than COA standards. Emphasis is commonly placed on, for example, a history of high academic performance, completion of intense undergraduate science curriculum, evidence of study of statistics, proof of verbal ability and writing skills, and experience as an RN in acute care settings. Most applicants have acquired extensive clinical experience in areas such as coronary, respiratory, postanesthesia, and surgical intensive care units
Examples of courses commonly required include anatomy, physiology, microbiology, chemistry, and pharmacology; sociology and psychology; and statistics. Also baccalaureate-prepared RNs are generally well grounded in philosophy, ethics, economics, communications, telecommunications, and English composition.
Pre-Program Nursing Competencies
The National Council of State Boards of Nursing NCLEX-RN Examination, successful passage of which is a prerequisite to become licensed as an RN (a prerequisite for nurse anesthesia programs), validates the following nursing competencies: Safe, Effective Care Environment — Management of Care, Safety and Infection Control; Health Promotion and Maintenance; Psychosocial Integrity; Physiological Integrity — Basic Care and Comfort, Pharmacological and Parenteral Therapies, Reduction of Risk Potential, Physiological Adaptation.
Pre-Program Acute Care Nursing Competencies
The acute care RN has proven patient care experience with a foundation of nursing competencies. The acute care nursing prerequisite means that the nurse anesthesia student applicant must have competencies through experience with acutely/critically ill patients in hospitals, in the following areas: patient assessment (collecting relevant patient health data); diagnoses (analyzing assessment data in determining diagnoses); outcome identification (identifying individualized, expected outcomes for the critically ill patient); planning (developing a care plan that prescribes interventions to attain expected outcomes); implementation (implementing interventions identified in the care plan (e.g., delivered in a manner that minimizes complications and life-threatening situations)); evaluation (evaluating the patient’s progress toward attaining expected outcomes). (American Association of Critical Care Nurses Standards of Care for Acute and Critical Care Nursing)
Scope of Training
CRNAs are capable of high-level independent function and receive instruction in the administration of all types of anesthesia including general and regional anesthesia, selected local and conscious sedation, monitored anesthesia care, and pain management. They are trained to provide anesthesia to patients of all ages for all types of surgery, from simple to the most complex cases. The ability to make independent judgments and provide multiple anesthetic techniques is critical to meeting an array of patient and surgical needs.
Total Clinical Education
CRNAs receive a minimum of seven years of formal education and preparation, from the commencement of the professional education in nursing to the graduation from nurse anesthesia school, to prepare them for their careers in anesthesia. During the course of their education, CRNAs will typically have acquired at least 6,000 hours of clinical patient care experience.
A nurse anesthetist graduates with a Master’s or Doctorate degree upon successful completion of a nurse anesthesia educational program. They must successfully pass the National Board of Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) certification examination in order to practice as a CRNA in at least 48 states and the District of Columbia. 40 continuing education credits are required every 2 years.