8 February 2007
Career Exploration Paper: Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist
By attending rigorous courses and informative lectures, college allows students to gain
the knowledge necessary to succeed in a chosen field of study. It is college that opens a student’s
mind to a career about which she feels passionate, such as nurse anesthesia. This desire to
become a part of the nursing field may come from the wish to help others or simply a family
tradition. Whatever the reason, any student who wishes to become a Certified Registered Nurse
Anesthetist will find that East Carolina University is capable of fulfilling both the initial nursing
school and the graduate school, where she will participate in an anesthesia program. This paper’s
purpose is to discuss the nursing school offered by East Carolina University, as well as explore
the career of the nurse anesthetist. Comment [JG1]: Great introduction
The first thing a new student must consider is how she will finance her many years of
education. For a prospective nurse, several scholarships exist that can help fund her schooling.
From the Nurse Educators of Tomorrow Program to the North Carolina Nurse Scholarship
Program, many organizations are more than willing to give assistance to dedicated nursing
students. The government also provides loans with low interest rates in order to suppress the
burden of expenses (Graduate). With many opportunities to gain money through scholarship
programs and loans, a student will find it easy to begin her education. Comment [JG2]: Good information
A student who hopes to become a nurse would first have to complete the “required pre-
requisite course work in social, behavioral, and natural sciences; and in the humanities” before
applying to become a declared nursing major at East Carolina University. To gain admission into
the nursing program, a minimum of a 2.5 cumulative GPA is required (Bachelor). Because the Formatted: Highlight
nursing school is so competitive, allowing only one hundred and thirty applicants to enter, the
admissions board also considers a ranking system. The system uses the GPA to calculate the
student’s initial ranking, allotting extra points to those who never grade replaced any courses and
two points to those whose education began as a freshman or one point to those who are transfer
students at East Carolina University (ECU Ranking). After acceptance into the university’s Formatted: Highlight
nursing school, classes in clinical nursing that show that the student is competent in providing
care for others, in teamwork, in knowledge of nursing and natural sciences, and many other skills
must be completed (Bachelor). By finishing the undergraduate program in nursing and wanting Comment [JG3]: Passive Voice
to continue one’s education in nurse anesthesia, East Carolina University would remain a prime
To become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist a master’s degree in nursing, offered
by five universities in North Carolina, is required (Sopko). However, once a student graduates
nursing school as a registered nurse, “at least one year of critical care experience” is required Formatted: Highlight
before advancing to a master’s program, says Shirley Sopko, a nurse anesthetist of eleven years
(Sopko). In addition to work experience, a person interested in becoming a nurse anesthetist must
take one of two tests: “the Graduate Record Examination (GRE) [with a score of] 850 or higher Formatted: Highlight
or the Miller Analogies Test (MAT) [with a score of] 386 or higher” within five years before Comment [JG4]: Watch placing things into
parenthesis that aren’t citations.
applying to graduate school (MSN). Acceptance into the anesthesia program also depends on if Formatted: Highlight
the student had a GPA of at least a 3.0 during nursing school (Nurse Anesthesia). Once a student Formatted: Highlight
is successfully enrolled into the anesthesia program, which has a “typical length of…around 28 Comment [JG5]: Passive voice
months”, a student will spend at least 400 hours providing anesthesia “to patients undergoing Formatted: Highlight
various types of surgery” (Sopko; Shurr). Students must also complete a minimum of 200 hours
in the classroom learning the ins-and-outs of anesthesia and its administration, how the body will
react to the anesthesia, and the pharmacology of anesthesia (Shurr). After graduation, a student
must take a national certification examination to ensure that she is adequately prepared to take on
the responsibilities of a nurse anesthetist, (Education). After many years of education, a student
is finally able to start her new career as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist.
By looking at the job market, you see that “the nurse anesthesia specialty is facing an Comment [EC6]: No second person in academic
ongoing shortage of qualified faculty,” which allows a newly certified nurse anesthetist to easily
gain employment (Lupien). Nurse anesthetists are required to work with doctors,
anesthesiologists, other nurse anesthetists, registered nurses, and most importantly patients
(Certified). Primarily, nurse anesthetists belong to an anesthesia care team, “involving CRNAs
and anesthesiologists providing services together” (Alves). Wherever anesthesia is present, a
nurse anesthetist must be fully prepared to dedicate herself to her patients completely. Comment [JG7]: Great use of three sources in
The nature of the work of a nurse anesthetist is one of much dedication and potentially
stressful situations. Julie Lowery, the active president of the North Carolina Association of Nurse
Anesthetists, reports, “I work 40 hours a week doing clinical anesthesia. The day starts early – I
am in the [operating room] by 6:45 A.M.” A nurse anesthetist will be assigned to one operating
room for the whole day and be responsible for any surgeries scheduled in that room. The number
of surgeries depends on the length of the procedure,procedure; sometimes there will be only one
case for the entire day (Lowery). To begin the day, a nurse anesthetist is responsible for
preparing the operating room before the surgery and for providing preoperative care
(O’Sullivan). After preparing the patient for surgery, the nurse anesthetist stays with her
throughout the surgery, giving various anesthetics, monitoring vital signs, checking fluid, and
keeping the patient safe. Once the surgery is over, the nurse anesthetist is responsible for caring
for the patient until she feels that the patient is stable enough to turn over the care to the recovery
room nurse (Lowery). Before returning to the operation room for the next surgery, the nurse
anesthetist is required to fill out the appropriate paperwork on the previous patient (Alves). With
such responsibilities, some nurse anesthetists complain about extreme stress; however, steps to
ease theses stresses take place.
In an attempt to make the stressful work of a nurse anesthetist more desired, salaries have
dramatically increased, reaching $180,000 a year, according to a reports a survey completed by
Allied Consulting (Demand). Many nurse anesthetists practice internalization, a way of
maintaining composure and just getting over it. This method does not work very well for long-
term stress,stress; so many people look to hobbies or spirituality to release the stress from a day’s
work (Perry). Although a great deal of pressure is placed on a nurse anesthetist, Sopko feels that Comment [JG8]: Passive voice
being a nurse anesthetist “is very rewarding.” However, if a nurse anesthetist feels that she is
involved in a setting that is too stressful for her, this field is so broad she can easily find
employment in another area of anesthesia.
Since the work of a nurse anesthetist encompasses every field in which the administration
of anesthesia is involved, her job spectrum is very extensive. Lowery states, “CRNAs work in all
types of surgical settings where anesthesia is delivered,” consisting of largeof large hospitals,
small community hospitals, ambulatory surgery centers, plastic surgeons’ offices, podiatrist
offices, and oral surgeons/dental offices (Lowery). If a person decides she does not want to work
with high risk patients, such as cardiac patients, she can work in an oral surgeon’s office where
she will prepare patients to have their wisdom teeth extracted. A nurse anesthetist may also be
interested in obstetrics where she would provide “analgesia during labor, after delivery, and
during the performance of caesarean sections” (Henry). The options of what a nurse anesthetist
can do seem to be countless; however, certain issues will follow a nurse wherever she goes.
No matter what, a nurse should respect a patient by following the rights expressed in the
Patient’s Bill of Rights. This promises a patient privacy and respect of her wishes. The rights
listed in this bill absolutely prohibit disclosing any medical information without the consent of
the patient herself. A patient also has the right to refuse any kind of medical treatment or life
support – a patient who wishes to die has the right to do so with dignity (Patient’s). Issues arise
with this, because no matter what a nurse feels is right, she must always respect what the patient
wants. Another issue that may cause complications for a nurse anesthetist is that “anesthesia is a
very political arena and there can be a lot of competition between CRNAs and
anesthesiologists.” Due to remaining subservient to the anesthesiologist, some nurse anesthetists
return to school to become anesthesiologists themselves, in an attempt to end this competition
(Lowery). A nurse anesthetist may feel that by gaining her PhD she will no long have her
methods of treatment questioned. Because issues and questions will always exist in medicine, it
is the responsibility of the nurse anesthetist to learn new information about this field so the
patient will always know what the best option for her will be.
In order for a nurse anesthetist to remain competent in her field, she must always be
searching for new information about anesthesia. To remain a nurse anesthetist, one must “obtain
a minimum of 40 hours of approved continuing education every two years.” It is also required
that a nurse anesthetist actually practice medicine and renew any certifications that may expire
(Certified). If one fails to comply with these rules, it would be possible to lose your certification
as a registered nurse anesthetist.
Organizations exist that are specifically for those who are Certified Nurse Anesthetists or
those who hope to become nurse anesthetists. The most dominant organization is the American
Association of Nurse Anesthetists; membership to this group is encouraged by East Carolina Comment [JG9]: Passive
University upon entering graduate school (Nurse Anesthetist). Each state also has its own
organization, such as the North Carolina Association of Nurse Anesthetists, in which both Julie
Lowery and Shirley Sopko hold officer positions.
Although nurse anesthesia is a long road, which requires much dedication, the result of
helping better other people’s lives is worth it. There is no better feeling than waking up in the
morning happy about the path that you have chosen for your life. The education that you must
gain is a mere stepping-stone into a career that will forever bring you joy. The need for nurse
anesthetists will never end; someone will always need surgery and with surgery comes the need
to provide a pain-free experience.
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Sopko, Shirley, CRNA, MSN. E-mail interview. 24 Jan. 2007.
Outstanding first paper. Great research and well organized. Watch the passive voice and a few
comma splices. Well done.