How did you learn about the CRNA career? How did you discover this as an option in registered nursing?

I first found out about the Nurse Anesthesia speciality from my mom, a former ICU nurse and palliative care CNS. This coincided with my own deep dive into researching various nursing specialties I might be interested in upon earning my BSN. 

Is there anything you would recommend to nursing students who are interested in becoming a CRNA?

Find a practicing CRNA and arrange a shadowing opportunity. This will be the best way for you to really understand the scope of our practice and how we function in the perioperative setting. Also, keep in mind that critical care experience is requisite for admission to CRNA school. Make sure you’re comfortable pursuing ICU work as it provides an excellent foundation for CRNA practice.

Was there anything that you did that helped you learn more about becoming a CRNA or gain relevant experience?

I was captivated by the nurse anesthesia specialty from the very beginning, so I committed myself to optimizing my path to becoming a CRNA. This included shadowing CRNAs, getting advice from anesthetists on various  internet forums, working as a nursing assistant during nursing school and seeking a new grad position at a surgical/trauma ICU at a Level 1 trauma center. CRNA programs are typically looking for bright, ambitious and well-rounded individuals that are adaptable to performing well in dynamic situations.

How did you research/apply to/select the CRNA program that you completed?

It’s imperative that you have a good support system during CRNA school. For me, that was my family in California. In 2010 there were only four programs in the state, so that narrowed down the field considerably! All of the programs were reputable and afforded their students exceptional clinical opportunities. Ultimately, I enrolled at Samuel Merritt University in Oakland, California. In hindsight, I would recommend finding a program that has a quality, clinical simulation lab and diverse clinical site offerings (i.e. cardiac, obstetrics, pediatrics, regional, etc).

Were there other pathways that you considered and, if so, why did you decide to pursue a career as a CRNA over the other options?

Coming from a family of RNs, I never really considered an alternate profession. I had always been in awe of the service and care that nurses provide their patients, and the notion of being able to almost instantly afford someone exceptional relief from pain and anxiety just solidified my decision.

Compared to other nursing specialties, what makes being a CRNA unique? Is there anything uniquely challenging or difficult that you do that you think interested students should be aware of?

CRNAs exercise an incredible amount of autonomy. In fact, many states allow us to practice fully independent of physician oversight. The trade-off is that you must be prepared to negotiate an incredible amount of risk and responsibility on a day-to-day basis. We are expected to be expert at conducting physical assessments, devising and executing anesthetic plans and spearheading the response to a variety of crises that can arise during the perioperative course. We have an extraordinary ability to impact our patients’ outcomes, for better or worse. The decision to pursue the CRNA specialty is not to be taken lightly, but if you are passionate and dedicated then you will be rewarded with an incredible career.

What is your fondest memory from your time at UCI?

My fondest memory was meeting my future wife at our white coat ceremony. As it turned out, she too was interested in pursuing a career as a CRNA. Incredibly, we were fortunate enough to be able to attend CRNA school together. If it wasn’t for UCI, I wouldn’t have my beautiful family and a career I value so much!