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Nurse Anesthesia - About the Program

Mission of the Anesthesia Nursing Program
The mission of the Iowa Anesthesia Nursing Program is to educate registered nurses through didactic and clinical experiences needed to successfully enter into practice as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Since Iowa and other rural environments have a shortage of anesthesia practitioners, students participate in mandatory clinical rotations in rural and critical access hospitals. University of Iowa DNP-CRNA graduates are prepared to be leaders within the profession and U.S. health care system.

Program Design
Our Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) curriculum is designed to provide a BSN or BAN prepared Registered Nurse with graduate level education and clinical experience to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). Successful students will graduate with a DNP degree with a specialization in nurse anesthesia and be eligible to sit for the NBCRNA National Certification Exam.

Benefits of the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP)
The American Association of College of Nursing (AACN) has recommended the DNP as the graduate degree of choice for advanced practice registered nurses (APRN) including CRNAs. The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) has set 2022 as the deadline all CRNA educational programs to be educating at the doctoral level. The University of Iowa College of Nursing was one of the first in the nation to receive approval for the DNP from the CCNE in 2009. The Iowa anesthesia nursing program was one of the earliest programs to be approved for a DNP-CRNA educational program by the COA in October 2010. 

In a landmark report, The Future of Nursing: Leading Change, Advancing Health, the Institute of Medicine recommended that “Nurses should practice to the full extent of their education and training; and, be full partners in redesigning health care in the United States.” The DNP degree will allow CRNAs to be full partners in the developing health care system of the future and provide the high quality, cost-efficient care for which they are known. 

Program Sequence
The University of Iowa anesthesia nursing program will involve 36 months of intense academic study and clinical experience (see plan of study). The curriculum is designed to be completed in a three-year period, starting each May. 

The first year of the curriculum follows a traditional academic calendar. You'll receive 10 days off after your first summer semester, a week off at Thanksgiving, a month for winter break, and a week at Spring break. The first year courses strongly prepare you for the 2nd and 3rd year clinicals and for future practice as a full partner in the future health system. 

The second year begins your clinical education with some remarkable CRNA mentors who will guide your development over the final 24 months of the program. This initial clinical experience is obtained at either the University of Iowa Hospitals and Clinics, Unity Point Iowa Lutheran Hospital in Des Moines, or Spencer Community Hospital in Northwest, Iowa. As students become more comfortable in the operating room, the CRNAs increase the level of expectation for the SRNA and students are assigned increasingly difficult cases. In January of the 2nd year, SRNAs start their advanced clinical rotations, which last for the next 12 months (see map below).

During the advanced clinical experiences, the SRNA rotates to multiple location throughout Iowa to provide anesthesia in different settings and for differing patient populations. One of the highlights of the advanced clinical experiences are rotating to the rural hospitals where students get to experience life in a rural CRNA only practice and learn how a CRNA impacts a critical access hospital and community. Iowa SRNAs spend at least three months in three separate rural locations learning about CRNA practice. You will also rotate to a couple of medium sized community hospitals, a Veteran’s Affairs hospital, a private ambulatory surgery location, and pain management clinics.

The clinical experience you receive in the Iowa DNP CRNA program surpasses all requirements of the COA and NBCRNA to sit for the national boards exam (see Table 1 below). The Iowa program has a strong reputation for preparing remarkable CRNA clinicians who can provide full service anesthesia in any setting upon graduation. 

Upon completion of their advanced clinical rotation, the SRNAs prepare to defend their DNP projects, take the NBCRNA self-evaluation exam, and graduate in May, three years after starting the program. The future is bright for CRNAs in the U.S. health care system and very bright for Iowa DNP CRNAs who are prepared to be leaders within that system. 

Online Completion DNP Degree Program for Practicing CRNAs
The College of Nursing also offers a number of post-graduate certificate programs that might be of interest to a CRNA. Please click here to see the plans of study for those degree options. These programs are available to any CRNA with a Master’s or Doctoral degree. 

CRNAs with questions about this program should contact


Table 1

Totals COA Required Class of 2017 Class of 2018 Class of 2019
  Total Number of Cases 600 [700] 1260 1228 1173
  Hours of Mentored Anesthesia   2572 2717 2741
  Patient Physical Status  
    Class I & II   778 760 632
    Class III, IV, V, VI   482 469 540
Special Cases  
  Geriatric 50 [100] 345 390 355
  Pediatric 2-12 years 25 [75] 119 131 115
  Emergency 30 [50] 96 102 110
Anatomic Categories  
  Intracranial 5 [20] 34 54 65
  Intrathoracic 15 [40] 24 22 27
  Obstetrics 30 [40] 48 42 55
Methods of Anesthesia  
General anesthesia 350 830 853 818
    Endotracheal intubation 175 468 490 468
Regional techniques  
    Administration 25 298 360 360
    Arterial puncture/catheter insertion 25 72 81 82
    CVP  Placement 5 [10] 16 12 12
(  ) Minimum Required Cases,   [  ] Preferred Number of Cases


Click map below to enlarge

Map of Iowa