5 Tips For Getting Into Nurse Anesthesia School
The road to becoming a CRNA is an incredibly time-consuming one. Individuals, who wish to embark on pursuing this profession, must be passionate and driven to succeed, in an environment that can be highly competitive. There are more than 100 accredited nurse anesthesia educational programs across the United States, each with slightly different application requirements and acceptance rates. For most nurses, gaining acceptance into one of these competitive programs will take careful preparation and determination. While there is no way to guarantee acceptance to the nurse anesthesia program of your choice, below are 5 specific tips that will help increase your appeal as an applicant, and maximize your chance of acceptance to most nurse anesthesia programs.
1. Get 2 years of ICU experience, period.
Most nurse anesthesia program administrators are looking for a career-tested nurse who can easily make the transition into nurse anesthesia. While many programs list a requirement “minimum” of one-year critical care nursing experience, it will certainly benefit your applicant appeal to have more than just the bare minimum. Having at least 2 years of critical care nursing experience will not only make you more appealing to programs, but you will also be better prepared for the clinical portion of your program, which can be a difficult transition for those with little critical care nursing experience. In addition to the length of your critical care nursing experience, making sure you are getting the highest level of critical care experience will also benefit you. While a few programs still take applicants who have their primary experience in neonatal or pediatrics, the majority of programs highly favor applicants with extended critical care experience in an adult ICU setting. Applicants who have obtained their experience at a large medical center or Trauma Level 1 hospital (instead of a smaller, community based hospital) may also be favored over other applicants, since these applicants will typically have a broader range of experiences, making for an easier time adjusting to a nurse anesthesia program.
2. Complete your CCRN.
While becoming a staple requirement for applicants at more nurse anesthesia programs across the country, the CCRN, though not a requirement for applicants at all programs, will certainly boost your acute/critical care credibility to program administrators, regardless if the program has it listed as a requirement or not. CCRN certification not only demonstrates that you possess a distinct and clearly defined body of knowledge in acute/critical care nursing, it also can denote to program administrators that you are capable of dealing with a wide variety of critical care states. In addition to making you look more favorable as an applicant, the CCRN certification will better prepare you for a transition into nurse anesthesia school, which is why more programs are making the CCRN certification a requirement, with some programs even replacing their GRE requirement with CCRN certification.
3. Retake prereq courses with bare minimum grades.
All programs weigh the importance of academics, experience, and passion for the profession at varying degrees of importance when considering applicants. Though a ton of experience at a top level trauma center may allow certain programs to give pass to an average GPA (for example), the academic portion of every nurse anesthesia program, and the applicants ability to thrive within it, will always remain highly important to those evaluating potential applicants. There is no better way to demonstrate to nurse anesthesia programs that you are capable of excelling academically in a demanding program, than by providing proof that you have done so in the past. If you have bare minimum grades in courses that are prerequisites for a program, it can certainly benefit you to retake those courses and achieve a higher grade. This can be twofold for applicants, given that you’re presenting an above average grade that exceeds the minimum requirement, and by retaking the course you are also demonstrating your commitment and determination to succeed.
4. Shadow a CRNA multiple times.
Since most of the applicants applying to any given a nurse anesthesia program will have similar qualifications, it is important to set yourself apart from the pack. One of the things that programs are looking for in an applicant, is not just that they look good on paper, but that they understand what is expected of them in a nurse anesthesia program, and that they are knowledgeable about the profession and have prepared to meet the demands of an intense program. One way for applicants to display that they are serious about the profession, is to demonstrate a level of interest and willingness to be involved before they have even entered a program. Shadowing sessions with current CRNAs can certainly lend creditability to your passion for the profession, and it will also provide you with a glimpse of what the profession truly entails, allowing you to confirm if your chosen career path is a correct fit.
5. Be open to multiple schools and locations.
Once you have done all can to prepare academically and you have accumulated an impressive level of experience, the only thing left to do is to try and place the odds of acceptance in your favor. Many nurse anesthesia programs are highly competitive, have few spots, and many qualified applicants gunning for those spots. For many nurse anesthesia programs, they simply do not have the space to accommodate every qualified applicant who applies each year. Unfortunately, the chance of an applicant meeting (or even exceeding) all of the program requirements, and still not getting accepted into the program, happens quite often. One simple method for improving your odds, is by not limiting your opportunities. Though you may have your heart set on a particular program or location, it can only benefit your chances of getting into a nurse anesthesia program by applying to several schools. The application and interview process is a highly time consuming and stressful task, but it may be better to put in the time and effort it takes to apply to multiple programs, instead of rolling the dice on a single school, and not being accepted.