How to Become a Nurse Anesthetist, Nurse Midwife, or Nurse Practitioner
APRNs must earn a master’s degree which typically includes clinical experience.
Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners, also referred to as advanced practice registered nurses (APRNs), must have at least a master’s degree in their specialty role. APRNs also must be licensed registered nurses in their state, pass a national certification exam, and have a state APRN license.
Nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners typically need at least a master's degree in an advanced practice nursing field. Accredited healthcare and related programs in these specialties typically include classroom education and clinical experience. Courses in subjects such as advanced health assessment, pathophysiology, and pharmacology are common as well as coursework specific to the chosen APRN role.
An APRN must have a registered nursing (RN) license before pursuing education in one of the advanced practice roles, and a strong background in science is helpful.
Most APRN programs prefer candidates who have a bachelor’s degree in nursing. However, some schools offer bridge programs for registered nurses with an associate’s degree or diploma in nursing. Graduate-level programs are also available for individuals who did not obtain a bachelor’s degree in nursing but in a related health science field. These programs prepare the student for the RN licensure exam in addition to offering the APRN curriculum.
Although a master’s degree is the most common form of entry-level education, APRNs may choose to earn a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) or a Ph.D. The specific educational requirements and qualifications for each of the roles are available on professional organizations’ websites.
Prospective nurse anesthetists must have 1 year of experience working as registered nurse in a critical care setting as a prerequisite for admission to an accredited nurse anesthetist program.
Licenses, Certifications, and Registrations
States’ requirements for APRNs vary. In general, APRNs must have a registered nursing license, complete an accredited graduate-level program, pass a national certification exam, and have an APRN license. Details are available from each state’s board of nursing.
To become licensed and use an APRN title, most states require national certification.
The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists (NBCRNA) offers the National Certification Examination (NCE). Certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) must maintain their certification through the Continued Professional Certification (CPC) Program.
The American Midwifery Certification Board offers the Certified Nurse-Midwife (CNM). Individuals with this designation must recertify via the Certificate Maintenance Program.
There are several different certifications for nurse practitioners, including those available from the American Academy of Nurse Practitioners Certification Board (AANPCB), the American Nurses Credentialing Center (ANCC), and the Pediatric Nursing Certification Board (PNCB). Each of these certifications requires periodic renewal.
In addition, APRN positions may require cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR), basic life support (BLS), or advanced cardiac life support (ACLS) certification.
Communication skills. Advanced practice registered nurses have to be able to communicate with patients and other healthcare professionals to ensure the appropriate course of action.
Critical-thinking skills. APRNs must be able to assess changes in a patient’s health, quickly determine the most appropriate course of action, and decide if a consultation with another healthcare professional is needed.
Compassion. APRNs should be caring and sympathetic when treating patients.
Detail oriented. APRNs need to be thorough in providing treatments and medications that affect their patients’ health. During an evaluation, they must notice even small changes in a patient’s condition.
Interpersonal skills. APRNs must work with patients and families as well as with other healthcare providers and staff. They work as part of a team to determine and execute healthcare options for the patients they treat.
Leadership skills. APRNs often work in positions of seniority. They must effectively direct and sometimes manage other nurses on staff when providing patient care.
Resourcefulness. APRNs should know where to find the answers that they need.
Some APRNs take on managerial or administrative roles; others go into academia. APRNs who earn a doctoral degree may conduct independent research or work on an interprofessional research team.