For aspiring nurse anesthetists, a Master of Science in Nursing with a focus in nurse anesthesia – one of the highest-paying master’s degrees – is mandatory. Of course, before you get to graduate school, you will have to complete your undergraduate studies. Choosing a major is easy when you know you want to be a nurse anesthetist, since not having a nursing degree will prevent you from reaching your career goals. However, undergraduate students with nurse anesthetist ambitions should also expect to study areas such as science, math and psychology.
The Importance of an Undergraduate Degree in Nursing
For aspiring nurse anesthetists, the only undergraduate major that will provide a direct path to this career is nursing. You have to be a registered nurse (RN) with critical care work experience to get into most master’s degree programs in nurse anesthesia, the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) [link]. To do this, you need a formal education in nursing. An RN could complete their nursing education requirement in the form of a diploma program or an associate’s degree. However, you need a Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) degree to get into most master’s degree programs in nurse anesthesia.
When you study nursing as an undergraduate, you learn all of the areas of clinical practice required for entry-level work as a nurse. Nursing students learn the fundamentals of professional nursing practice. The curriculum of a bachelor’s degree program in nursing introduces you to topics in health assessment, pathophysiology and pharmacology and evidence-based nursing practice. Nursing students also learn about treating specific populations, including children, older adults, women, families and patients with behavioral health concerns or complex health problems.
Clinical experiences are an essential part of studying nursing. Nursing students complete clinical experiences in all kinds of environments, from hospitals to nursing homes and mental and behavioral health facilities.
Science and Math
Having a strong educational foundation in science is integral to success in any advanced practice registered nurse career, according to the BLS. Effective nurses need to understand the science behind healthcare interventions. Many undergraduate nursing programs expect students to complete laboratory classes in chemistry, as well as coursework in anatomy and physiology and microbiology and genetics.
Math is also part of a nursing career, especially for nurse anesthetists. Administering powerful medications called anesthesia is one of the core tasks of a nurse anesthetist’s career. Getting the dosages right is essential for patient safety and drug effectiveness. After all, too much anesthesia could put the patient’s life at risk, while too little can put the patient through the trauma of being conscious and in pain during a painful medical procedure. To arrive at the right dosage, you need solid mathematical skills.
While some BSN programs require nursing students to take only a basic college mathematics or statistics course, others integrate math in more specialized ways. You might take a class specific to healthcare statistics, for example. Some BSN programs require students to take a class in nursing medication mathematics.
Coursework in nursing medication mathematics teaches aspiring nurses how to accurately calculate the dosages of drugs to administer to patients. You don’t necessarily need advanced knowledge of complex mathematical branches like calculus, trigonometry, geometry and topology. Instead, you need a thorough understanding of simple but practical mathematical concepts, including measurements, conversion between different units of measurement, percentages, fractions and rations.
A class in nursing medication mathematics may also cover topics like reading medication labels and abbreviations commonly used in medical charts, notes and prescriptions.
Studying psychology isn’t only valuable for aspiring psychiatric and behavioral health nurses. Undertaking studies in the science devoted to the mind, thought and behavior can make you a better nurse in general and a better nurse anesthetist. After all, nurse anesthetists often work in situations that may be stressful for the patient. Both surgeries and the pain of labor and childbirth can cause patients to feel anxious or afraid. Reassuring patients and listening to their concerns are two actions that can go a long way to improving patient satisfaction and safety.
Even if the only official psychology coursework you complete as a nursing student is an introductory general psychology course, you should expect to study some elements of psychology in courses that emphasize psychosocial development and health assessment.