Two advanced nursing specialties stand out for their uniqueness and need for distinctive schooling—Nursing Anesthesia and Nurse Midwifery. Both are advanced practice nursing degrees, which means they go significantly beyond the Masters of Science in Nursing to bundle in mogul specialized skills and know-how.
In some cases nurse anesthesia schools and nurse midwifery schools are standalone institutions, far removed from the pale of generic nursing school programs. In other situations they are micro-specialized schools within a larger school of nursing or health sciences.
Nurse anesthetists work predominantly in hospitals and outpatient offices where patients must undergo local or general anesthesia. These RNs work closely with anesthesiologists and in a hospital setting are often included as part of the anesthesiology department versus the nursing department. Roles and responsibilities vary and in some cases are driven by very political issues. However, nurse anesthetists are often the primary anesthesia figure in an operating room, delivery anesthesia and monitoring and caring for the patient for the duration of the procedure.
A typical NA program takes between 2 and 3 years to complete with students required to attend full-time. No opportunity for any online study—these demanding programs are quite evenly divided between didactic (academic) learning and clinical study. Student nurse anesthetists are required to learn skills they would have had no previous knowledge of or practice in—anesthesia from start to finish. This is unique nursing practice and schooling notorious for its competitiveness, its rigor, and the resulting financial rewards as a practicing CRNA, Certified Registered Nurse of Anesthesia.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics in 2006 there were 106 nurse anesthesia programs across the U.S.
Nurse Midwives participate in highly specialized training that eventually allows them to practice independently of obstetric physicians. The number of nurse midwife programs has increased among nursing schools, but some programs remain unique unto themselves, delivered in standalone schools of specialized nursing study. For example, The Frontier School of Nurse Midwifery and Family Nursing specializes in training RNs to become midwives, family nurse practitioners, and women’s health nurse practitioners.
Nurse midwife programs run 2 to 3 years and emphasize hands-on clinical work so the RN can become expert at birth assistance and with delivering high-quality healthcare to pregnant women and post-natal women and infants.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics there were 39 nurse midwife programs of study in the U.S. in 2006. That number continues to grow as demand for this specialized RN practice grows, too.