How to Become a CRNA in California – A Simple Guide

How to Become a CRNA in California - A Simple Guide

Are you thinking of becoming a nurse and specializing in a certain field?

Or perhaps you are already a registered nurse who is interested in becoming a nurse anesthetist? 

Well, you’ve come to the right place!

Here, we will discuss everything you need to know to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). 

You’ll get a fuller picture of the entire process through our simple guide. 

We’ll also give you a fuller picture of the job by answering some FAQs, such as:

  • How much does a CRNA earn in California?
  • What are the possible job opportunities for a CRNA? 
  • Is a nurse anesthetist different from an anesthesiologist? 

The process to become a CRNA may be long and hard, but there are also many rewards – such as plentiful job opportunities, a high salary grade, job autonomy, flexibility with work hours, and the fulfillment of helping people manage their pain. 

So, if you’re ready to discuss how to become a CRNA in California, let’s begin! 

How to Become a CRNA in California: 5 Simple Steps 

The process of becoming a CRNA may be long and overwhelming, but we suggest that you take it step by step. 

Break down your long-term goal into these 5 doable steps: 

  1. Become a Registered Nurse (RN) and Gain Experience
  2. Take a Master’s or Doctoral Degree in Nurse Anesthesia
  3. Pass the National Certification Exam from the Council on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists
  4. Apply for Your CRNA License from the California Board of Registered Nursing 
  5. Keep Your CRNA License Active 

Step#1: Become a Registered Nurse (RN) and Gain Experience 

To become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist, you first need to become a Registered Nurse. 

You can find everything you need to know about how to become an RN in California in this article, but here are some things to keep in mind. 

Enroll in an Approved RN Program

As an RN, you play a crucial role in the healthcare team and direct patient care. 

You need a specialized set of knowledge and skills to do this job… That’s why it’s necessary to get the proper training to become an RN. 

To get the proper training, you can choose to enroll in an ADN or a BSN program. 

An Associate Degree in Nursing (ADN) is only two years long and already qualifies you to become an RN.

A Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) is four years long. It gives you more advanced training and more clinical experience.

If you’re considering becoming a nurse anesthetist, we recommend that you take the BSN degree. This is often the minimum education requirement if you’re considering going to more advanced nursing practice. 

However, if you already graduated as an ADN, then you can consider taking an RN to BSN or RN to MSN bridge program.

Get Your California RN License 

After graduation, you need to take and pass the NCLEX-RN exam. 

To qualify for this exam, you need to send your application by examination to the California Board of Registered Nursing (BRN). 

They will evaluate your educational background and do a criminal background check. 

If they accept your application, then you will be given Authorization to Test (ATT), and you can schedule when to take the exam. 

However, if you are already an RN in another state, you don’t need to apply by examination, but by endorsement. 

You need to send proof of an active RN license and pass a criminal background check. 

Gain Experience 

Once you pass the NCLEX, it’s time to find a job and gain experience as an RN. 

If you’re thinking of becoming a CRNA, then it’s best to gain experience, particularly in acute, critical, or intensive care. 

Most Master’s or Doctorate Degrees in Nurse Anesthesia will require at least 1-2 years of prior experience in this field. 

So choose your job wisely and gain meaningful experience.

Step#2: Take a Master’s or Doctoral Degree in Nurse Anesthesia 

Now that you are an RN in California with meaningful work experience, it’s time to undergo training to become a CRNA. 

CRNA programs are known to be demanding and rigorous. You will need determination, self-motivation, and diligence to make it through. 

But where should you enroll?

Approved Programs

Your first consideration should be whether the CRNA program is approved or not. 

It should be approved by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs. They are the organization that approves all CRNA programs nationwide, including in California. 

Here is a list of approved CRNA programs in California. 

Coursework and Clinical Experience 

Typically, the CRNA program lasts about 3 years for a full-time student. 

It usually consists of 1 year of didactic training, including subjects such as anesthesiology, pharmacology, basic science, health policy, leadership, healthcare technology, advanced evidence-based practice, management & economics, epidemiology, data management, quality improvement, etc. 

It is then generally followed by about 2 years of intense clinical training in partner institutions. You will be trained in both regional and general anesthesia. 

The exact format will differ per school. Again, just make sure that the program is an accredited one. 

Step#3: Pass the National Certification Exam 

At this point, you’ve already spent many years studying to become an RN and then studying to become a Nurse Anesthetist. 

But the last major push before you can qualify to become a CRNA is to take the National Certification Exam (CNE) administered by the Council on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists.

You may feel overwhelmed by this, but there are many resources to help you complete this. 

You can also check this handbook for a breakdown of the content and types of questions so that you can properly prepare for the exam. 

The content of the exam is broken down into 4 major parts, with their corresponding percentage of the entire exam:

  • Basic Sciences (25%)
  • Equipment, Instrumentation, and Technology (15%)
  • Basics Principles of Anesthesia (30%)
  • Advanced Principles of Anesthesia (30%)

In terms of the types of questions, there are:

  • multiple choice questions
  • multiple correct responses
  • computations
  • drag and drop
  • hot spot 

There are also some practice exams that you can take and self-evaluation tools. 

Once you pass the CNE exam, you will become certified by the Council on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists.

Step#4: Apply for Your CRNA License from the California Board of Registered Nursing 

Now that you are certified by a national organization, it’s time to get your certification from California. 

Application Requirements

To apply for your license, you need to submit the following documents directly to the Board of Registered Nursing:

  • Verification of your Nurse Anesthetist Certification from the Council on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists.
  • Verification of your Completion of a Nurse Anesthesia Academic Program submitted by the CRNA program you graduated from.
  • Official transcripts for the completed nurse anesthesia academic program submitted by the nurse anesthesia academic program you graduated from.

Forms and Fees 

You can find the forms for the application requirements in this link

The application fee for your CRNA license is $500. 

Step#5: Keep Your CRNA License Active

Once you are licensed as a CRNA, we guarantee that it won’t be difficult for you to find a job… and you’ll be well-paid too!

Just remember that you need to keep both your RN license and your CRNA license active with the California BRN by renewing them every two years. 

To keep your RN license active, you need to pay $190 and finish at least 30 units of approved continuing education. 

To keep your CRNA license, you need to pay $150 to the California BRN at the same time that you renew your RN license. 

But remember that California will only renew your CRNA license if you are still nationally certified by the Council on Certification and Recertification of Nurse Anesthetists. 

The Council also has renewal requirements which you will need to comply with every four years. 

This includes completing some continuing education units, as well as taking an in-depth assessment every 8 years to make sure that you are informed and on top of the latest updates in your field. 

Frequently Asked Questions about Becoming a CRNA in California 

And there you have it! We’ve given you the 5-step guide, just as we promised.

But now let’s turn our attention to some important questions you may be thinking of. 

How much does a CRNA earn in California?

The mean annual wage for nurse anesthetists nationwide is $202, 470. 

But this can go as high as $283,550 in the top-paying cities of California, which include Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ontario. 

Nurse anesthetists are the most highly paid Advanced Practice Registered Nurses (APRNs). 

What are the possible job opportunities for a CRNA? 

There are a lot of job opportunities for CRNAs, especially because they have a great deal of independence and autonomy. 

In California, CRNAs do not need to work under the supervision of a doctor. They can be hired directly by outpatient clinics, offices of dentists or plastic surgeons, and other facilities that need to administer anesthesia to their clients. 

According to the US Bureau of Labor Statistics, however, the highest concentration of CRNAs work in offices of physicians, offices of other health practitioners (such as dentists), and in general medical and surgical hospitals.  

Is a nurse anesthetist different from an anesthesiologist? 

Yes. Even if the terms sound very similar, they are different professions.

A nurse anesthetist is an Advanced Practice Registered Nurse who specializes in administering anesthesia. An anesthesiologist is a Medical Doctor who specializes in administering anesthesia.

Although both do very similar work, the CRNA may work under the leadership of a group of anesthesiologists, especially in bigger work environments such as hospitals.

In Summary 

Alright! We’ve covered a lot! 

We hope you found this simple guide to becoming a CRNA in California helpful! 

Remember that there are five steps to keep in mind – become an RN and gain experience; take a master’s or doctorate in nurse anesthesia; pass the NCE; apply for your CRNA license; and keep your license active. 

Although the journey may be difficult, always keep the end goal in mind. 

We wish you success in all your endeavors!

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