Yes, the rumors are true: some nurses do make more than doctors. In particular, certified nurse anesthetists (CRNA) are known for taking home some pretty hefty paychecks.
By now you’re probably asking yourself, self, what’s a CRNA and how do I become one? CRNAs are the nurses in charge of administering anesthesia during surgery and other procedures. Because a patient’s life literally rests in this nurse’s hands, CRNAs do go through extensive training. But that doesn’t mean this career is unreachable; it’s actually quite the contrary. Nursing career paths have built-in upward mobility, and you can complete the training to become a CRNA while you’re working.
Step 1: Become a Licensed Practical Nurse (LPN)
You can get jump-start a nursing career by enrolling in a state-approved nursing program and becoming a licensed practical nurse (also known as licensed vocational nurse). These programs are typically offered by community and junior colleges and should take about a year to complete. Once you complete the program, you’ll need to take the National Council Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN) to get your license. When you’re done, you’ll be ready to help registered nurses and doctors care for patients on a daily basis in a wide variety of settings. (If you prefer to go right for your Bachelor’s degree, you can skip Step 1 entirely and go directly to Step 2.)
Step 2: Earn your BSN and become an RN
While you’re working as a LPN, you can study to get your Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing (BSN) and become a registered nurse (RN). This will help your career in not one, but two ways. First, registered nurses shoulder greater responsibility (and therefore make more money) than LPNs and LVNs. Second, having a BSN and a year’s worth of experience as a registered nurse is required to become a CRNA.
Step 3: Becoming a CRNA
Once you have your BSN and have practiced as an RN for at least a year, you can choose to pursue a Master’s in Nursing (MSN). The Master’s in Nursing will allow you to become an advanced practice nurse (APN), a field that includes nurse practitioners, clinical nurse specialists, certified nurse midwives, and-you guessed it-certified nurse anesthetists.
An accredited nurse anesthesia program will provide an extensive education in anatomy, physiology, pathophysiology, biochemistry, chemistry, physics and the pharmacology related to anesthesia. During clinic, you’ll learn the anesthesia techniques and procedures necessary for different types of surgery and obstetrics. These programs generally take 24 to 36 months. Upon completion, you’ll have a Master’s in Nursing, and after you pass a national certification exam, you’ll be qualified to work as a CRNA.
To find out more about nursing degrees, programs, and schools, visit the myfootpath nursing degree programs page.
About The Author
Noel Rozny writes the bi-weekly career blog for myFootpath. The site is a resource to help you in your search for a college, degree program, career, graduate school, and non-traditional experiences.
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