We talk a lot about nurse practitioners here at ThriveAP, but today we’re branching out. Becoming a nurse practitioner isn’t the right career path for every nurse aspiring to an advanced education. One option for nurses looking for something new is to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) providing anesthetics to patients for surgeries and procedures. Could life as a CRNA be right for you?To get a glimpse into the CRNA education, we talked to Anna Kadeg. Anna is a registered nurse with CCU experience currently attending the Adventist University of Health Sciences’ CRNA program. Here’s what she had to say.
What made you want to become a CRNA?
I was getting burnt out working in the ICU, so I decided the time was right for me to go back to school. Budget cuts were taking away techs on my floor, the hospital was cutting back nursing staff and increasing the responsibilities of the nurses that were left. I no longer had the time to spend with my patients and their families that I wanted. My job was quickly becoming emotionally draining.
Also, I got to the point where I wanted more autonomy. Often, I knew what medication my patients needed or what interventions would help when they were sick, but I was required to run everything by a physician. This caused delays in care. For example, if I was working at night, I might have to wait until a particular physician returned in the morning to request the treatment my patients needed. I was ready for more independence. I’m excited for the challenge and responsibility of directing my own actions as a provider
Why did you choose to become a CRNA over an NP or PA?
I choose to become a CRNA rather than a nurse practitioner or physician assistant because I wanted to be more hands-on as a medical provider. I want to be the one giving the medications rather than ordering them. I like the idea of performing procedures rather than diagnosing illness. I also appreciate how as a CRNA, the medical process involved is something where I see immediate results. I give medications, I monitor vital signs- I’m in the moment.
How is your CRNA program laid out?
Some CRNA programs are integrated meaning students complete a mix of didactic coursework and clinicals throughout the program. My program is front-loaded meaning coursework is concentrated into the first two semesters of the program while clinicals predominate the remaining five semesters. Now, in my third semester of the program, I attend classes on Mondays and then clinicals Tuesday through Friday.
The first few semesters of my program required a lot of studying, however I had flexibility and control of my schedule because I could choose when to study and complete assignments. Now, I am busier! I spend weekends studying because I am too exhausted to do homework after spending the day in clinicals. Right now, I don’t have the time and energy for much other than school. Other students tell me that clinicals ease up a bit and become less stressful as the program continues.
What is your clinical experience like?
In clinicals, I am placed one-on-one with a CRNA at all times which is nice. It’s not skin-or-swim, I am focused on learning and not treated like an extra staff member. Not all CRNA programs treat clinicals this way.
My program distributes a list of procedures I must learn and medications I must give and as I learn to do each item I check it off the list. Everyday I complete a clinical log regarding my patients for the day. For example, I outline if I have performed a nerve block, done a fiberoptic intubation, or placed a central line. I believe there are also state guidelines for how many of each type of procedure CRNA students must complete. My program far exceeds the minimum.
What has been the biggest challenge of going back to school to become a CRNA?
I had forgotten about the kind of stress that being in clinicals entails. As a CRNA student, you meet new people in your clinical placement everyday that you must win over and convince of your skill set. There are a lot of stressful interpersonal interactions that come with being back at the bottom of the totem pole, my competency is being constantly judged.
Learning in-depth pharmacology has also been a lot harder than I thought. You think you know medications because you have been working as a nurse, but when you are responsible for choosing which ones to give and understanding the chemistry behind the medications it becomes difficult. I have a study group that helps. By learning together we give each other a more well-rounded view and understanding of the material.
Do you have any advice for nurses going back to school to become CRNAs?
Make school your only focus. I moved far away from home to attend my program which has been a big help. I don’t have a lot of distractions. Your program will work best if you have can have tunnel vision for a few years. The people in my program who have the most trouble are those who are married, have children, or have other obligations. The program is doable with a family, but make sure they understand how taxing the program will be on your time and energy. Make sure those around you are on board with your education plans.
“Thank You” to Anna for sharing her experiences as a CRNA student!
Are you planning to become a CRNA? What questions do you have about CRNA programs?