FAQ About the Nurse Anesthesiology Specialty Track – Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Program


A Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist or CRNA is an advanced practice registered nurse (APRN) recognized by the National Council of State Boards of Nursing (NCSBN) and all of the boards of nursing in every state, territory and the District of Columbia that regulate nursing practice. According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), CRNAs are anesthesia professionals who safely administer more than 50 million anesthetics to patients each year in the United States. CRNAs provide anesthesia in collaboration with surgeons, dentists, podiatrists, physician anesthesiologists, and other qualified healthcare professionals. As advanced practice registered nurses, CRNAs practice with a high degree of autonomy and professional respect. CRNAs are qualified to make independent judgments regarding all aspects of anesthesia care based on their education, licensure, and certification. More information about state laws that regulate CRNA practice can be found on the AANA website.

The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) requires at least one year (preferably two years) of current, full time critical care experience. Trauma ICU, CVICU and/or surgical ICU experience is preferred. Other intensive care areas that are acceptable include: neuro ICU, burn ICU, PICU, NICU, MICU, and CCU. CRNAs are the only anesthesia professionals with critical care experience prior to beginning formal anesthesia education. The COA website has an explanation of how the organization determines this minimum clinical practice requirement

A critical care area is defined as one where, on a routine basis, the registered nurse manages one or more of the following: invasive hemodynamic monitors (e.g., pulmonary artery, central venous pressure, and arterial catheters), cardiac assist devices, mechanical ventilation, and vasoactive infusions. Those who have experiences in other areas may be considered provided they can demonstrate competence with managing unstable patients, invasive monitoring, ventilators, and critical care pharmacology.

Since nurse anesthesia education offered at schools or colleges of nursing require the completion of a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, a bachelor’s or master’s degree in nursing is required at time of application. Applicants must also hold an unencumbered license as a registered nurse.

No, however CCRN certification is strongly recommended and the knowledge will provide a foundation for anesthesia practice.

The NMSU Nurse Anesthesiology program is based at the NMSU-Las Cruces campus in southern New Mexico, however we are planning for a virtual campus in Albuquerque.  DNP core courses are delivered in an online, asynchronous format and nurse anesthesiology didactic courses will be delivered in a synchronous format.  Students located in the Las Cruces area will be required to attend class on campus and student located in the Albuquerque may be required to attend the didactic courses in a distance education classroom.  The majority of clinical experience are located in Las Cruces or Albuquerque/Santa Fe regions; however, all students will be required to complete a rural health rotation in New Mexico.  Students attending from out-of-state should plan to relocate to Las Cruces, NM prior to Year 2 of the program.

Due to the intensity, rigor, and demand of the program employment is strongly discouraged. There are several financial aid opportunities to help finance tuition and other expenses. At no time may a student be employed as an anesthesia provider.

Although there is no maximum number of graduate-level semester credit hours that can be transferred and applied to the program, the DNP-NA specialty track director will make the final determination regarding transfer of credit. Students wishing to transfer any course must have earned a minimum grade of B in the course and the course must have been completed within the past five years of starting the program. DNP core courses must have been completed at the doctoral level to be considered for transfer or waiver. Requests for transfer credit based on graduate course work at other institutions at NMSU must have prior approval from the department head and the dean of the Graduate School before credit will be applied at NMSU.  The request to transfer credit must be concluded prior to the second semester registration period. For more information on policies governing transfer of credit, please refer to the NMSU ARP 4.61.

Three letters of recommendation are required. One must be from a current supervisor/manager who completes your performance evaluation and is knowledgeable about your work performance and experience. One must be from an academic educator who can attest to your academic ability and your potential to complete the program. The third reference must be from an anesthesia provider (preferably from a CRNA) who can convey your potential to become a CRNA. References should be recent, written for the purpose of your application to this program and from professors who know you as a student, current supervisors/managers and anesthesia providers who know you as a professional in a job setting. Personal references from colleagues, friends, or family members do not meet the requirement.

It is highly recommended that you observe a CRNA prior to applying to the program. If possible, you should spend an entire shift observing the CRNA to get an idea of what a typical day may be like. NMSU has created a CRNA Shadow Log where you can record your shadowing. This log may be submitted with your program application.

The NMSU Nurse Anesthesiology program is planning to accept 24 students each year, however the class size will be determined by the Council on Accreditation for Nurse Anesthesia Education Programs (COA).