What do Nurse Anesthetist Programs Require to Apply
All the top nurse anesthetist programs have the same basic requirements structure. You will find that most schools are very similar with only slight variations to what they require for their application. With that said, it is important to know that a few schools have unique requirements, which we discuss later, but for now here is a general list of what you can expect to see on a school’s website.
BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing)
Unencumbered RN license
Greater then 1 year ICU experience
CCRN (school specific)
Minimum GRE (Graduate Record Exam) score of 300 (new test), 900 (old test)
Minimum GPA of 3.0 (cumulative with extra focus on science courses)
Job shadow a CRNA
ACLS, PALS, and BLS certifications
CRNA School Admissions: The Cold Hard Facts
Top Nurse Anesthetist Programs: A Closer Look at Requirements
BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing) – Most schools require this degree in order to apply. However, there are a few schools that will accept an ADN (Associates Degree Nurse) if you have a Bachelor degree also in a related field. It is important to note that the most competitive applicants will have their BSN.
Greater than 1 year ICU experience – Most of the top Nurse Anesthetist programs will have a 1 year minimum requirement in ICU, however to be competitive you will need 2-3 years in an adult ICU. Schools know it is hard to gain all the experience needed to do well in CRNA school just working one year in a intensive care unit. It doesn’t hurt to apply after just one year, but just know your chances of getting an interview are low. Most programs do NOT accept neonatal/pediatric ICU or emergency room as experience. There are a few programs that will consider applicants that worked in these areas, but their chances of getting in are slim. For every 1 position in CRNA school there are 7 qualified applicants. These applicants are going to have strong work experience with years of adult ICU under their belt.
Which ICU Experience Is Best – The type of ICU you work also plays a role in wether or not you get accepted. Not all ICUs are created equal in the eyes of the admission committee. We talk about this in detail in our eBook CRNA School Admissions: The Cold Hard Facts, and show you which areas to work in order to make yourself more appealing to schools. Schools want you to have adequate knowledge in the following areas: hemodynamic monitoring, Swanz Ganz, central lines, ventilators, vasoactive drips (levophed, cardene, dopamine, dobutamine, vasopressin, epinephrine, etc), critical thinking skills, EKG monitoring, etc.
Commonly Accepted ICU Experience:
SICU (Surgical ICU) *Best
CCU (Coronary Care Unit)
MICU (Medical ICU)
NICU (Neuro ICU)
TICU (Trauma ICU)
Less Commonly Accepted ICU Experience: (even if accepted these areas are not considered competitive)
NICU (Neonatal ICU)
PICU (Pediatric ICU)
ER (Emergency Room)
OR (Operating Room)
PACU (Post Anesthesia Care Unit)
Cardiac Step-down Units
CCRN – Critical Care Registered Nurse is a certification that you can get while working in ICU. This certification shows that you are well qualified in areas such as hemodynamics, anatomy/physiology, pathophysiology, and pharmacology. Some of the top Nurse Anesthetist programs require this while others do not. It is a good idea to go ahead and attain the CCRN, because it will make you a far more competitive applicant. In order to take the CCRN you must have an unencumbered licensure as a RN or APRN, 1,750 hours of direct bedside care of acutely and or critically ill patients during a 2 year period. 875 of those hours must be accrued in the 12 months preceding application.
Minimum GRE (Graduate Record Exam) – Some schools put a lot of emphasize on this test while others do not. It is truly school specific, and how much it matters will depend on which schools you decide to apply to. Schools that want high GRE scores typically don’t look as hard on things like CCRN (Critical Care Registered Nurse), previous GPA, or type of ICU worked. The schools that don’t care much about your GRE scores will want to see that you have your CCRN, strong work experience, high scores in chemistry and math courses.
Minimum GPA of 3.0 – Even though schools say they accept a GPA of 3.0 it is very hard to be competitive with a low GPA. Schools look at this as an indication of how well you will do in their program. To impress the admission committee you want to have a GPA of 3.5 or higher. All hope is not lost if you have a low GPA, you will just have to work harder in other areas in order to bring up the strength of your application. The good news is we can show you exactly how to do that. Our CRNAs know exactly what the top Nurse Anesthetist programs are looking for, and can show you very simple tricks to make your application stand out. Certain certifications can be acquired that will take a lot of the emphasize off your GPA. Also, there are a few simple things you can do while in ICU that looks GREAT on applications. Our eBook CRNA School Admissions: The Cold Hard facts is loaded with tips and strategies that current CRNA students used to improve their application, and get accepted even with a below average GPA.
Job shadow a CRNA – 90% of schools require their applicants to do this. It is a great idea because it shows you exactly what you will be doing as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. It is important to know that certain schools want one of your reference letters to be from a CRNA that you followed, so be sure you make a good impression. Also pay attention to the requirements of following a nurse anesthetist, because they may want you to do it more than once, and in certain areas such as OB, general surgeries, and outpatient clinics.
Reference letters – You need to pay close attention to who the anesthesia program wants reference letters from. You also need to know if you are allowed to send them, or if they must come directly from the person writing the letter. Schools are very picky about this, and if they say the letter must come directly from the person writing it, then they mean it. The possible choices are usually your charge nurse, previous nursing instructor, CRNA, or ICU director. You need to start forming good relationships with these people, so that when it comes time to apply they will have nothing but great things to say on your behalf.
Interview – There are a few things to consider when preparing for an interview at a top Nurse Anesthetist programs. Make sure you know if it is a “meet and greet” based interview or is it focused on clinical based questioning. These are two very different interview experiences and you preparing appropriately is vital to you success. “Meet and greet” interviews are more of a get to know you type interview. They will focus mainly on personal questions with only a few if any clinical questions. The opposite is true for clinical based interviews, and you can expect a high volume of intense questions about cardiovascular, respiratory, neuro, endocrine, pharmacology, ventilators, and other commonly tested subjects.
CRNA School Admissions: The Cold Hard Facts
Personal Essay – This personal essay will be sent in with your application. The anesthesia program you are applying to will usually give you a minimum and maximum length for your essay. This is your chance to chow the school why you deserve a spot in their program. This truly could be considered on of the most important parts of your application. These essays tell school so much about you. This is an inside look into your personalty, current level of knowledge, and grammar. The biggest mistake applicants make is they talk too much about the wrong topics. Schools are looking for very specific things in this essay and if you don’t cover them your application will be seriously hurt. Grammatical errors is another big no-no. One of the tips in our eBook CRNA School Admissions: The Cold Hard facts is to have your paper proof read by a formal English professor. You would be surprised how willing these former teachers will be to help when they discover you are wanting to further your education. We have also included in our eBook a sample essay that was actually used to help get a current RRNA accepted into a top Nurse Anesthetist programs .
ACLS, PALS, and BLS certifications – The Advanced Cardiac Life Support (ACLS), Pediatric Advanced Life Support, and Basic Life Support (BLS) are all certifications you can get at the hospital you work free while working as a nurse. These classes take 1-2 days and require minimal study time.
Unencumbered RN license – This means you can not have any restrictions on your license for drug abuse, assault, etc. If you have something on your license that you are not sure about, you can simply call the anesthesia program you wish to apply to and speak to them about their requirements. As long as you are licensed in one state you will be able to attend CRNA programs in any state. After graduating you will then have to become licensed in whichever state you choose to work.
Prerequisite courses – These are classes that schools will want you to have within a certain time of applying. These vary from school to school, but the ones you will see most often may include, Chemistry 1 & 2, Anatomy & Physiology, Statistics (Descriptive or Inferential), and sometimes Organic Chemistry. Statistics and Organic Chemistry are more rare prerequisites, and only apply to a handful of schools, so you don’t need to worry if you haven’t completed these courses. It is important to know how recent these courses must be completed prior to applying. A lot of school want a chemistry within 3 years of applying, so you may have to retake 1 or 2 courses before applying.
Researching Top Nurse Anesthetist Programs
Before ever starting the application process you need to do your research. Having a structured approach to applying to schools is very important, and will save you a lot of time and stress. Trying to keep track of all the different application deadlines, start dates, interview dates, cost, can quickly become overwhelming, and you will end up just throwing together a weak application that won’t have a good chance of getting noticed. Our CRNAs have put together a step by step approach to help you meet all the CRNA school requirements and conquer the application process. If you are serious about becoming a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist we recommend you read CRNA School Admissions: The Cold Hard Facts.
John Keith | CRNA Career Pro