This is a guest post written by Nurse Joe. He began his career as an RN after attending community college in Orlando, FL. He secured a job in CVICU as his first nursing job. While working full-time, Joe attended UCF where he obtained his BSN and also received his CCRN about 2 years later. After that, Nurse Joe began studying for the GRE in preparation for applying to CRNA school. Luckily, he was accepted to his first school of choice and graduates from CRNA school in May 2018!!
1. It’s like nothing you can imagine. Be ready to study like you’ve never studied before.
CRNA is not nursing school. It’s not even close. It’s really like a residency program that ensures you will graduate knowing pharmacology, cardiothoracic, and neurology like the back of your hand. CRNA’s are essentially clinical pharmacologists and work closely every day with the human body, but mainly focus on cardiac, neuro, and pulmonary systems. Please don’t get the wrong idea though, as you will likely cover every aspect of the human body from hematologic disorders to musculoskeletal disorders while in the program.
2. Be humble.
Getting into CRNA school is probably the best thing that can happen to someone trying to get in, like myself. I was so ecstatic and couldn’t have been happier the day I got the call from the program director. I thought it would be a fairly easy transition from ICU and that was not the case. I was at the top of my game in the ICU and I thought I knew my stuff. Boy was I wrong. This program has changed me for the better. I see things differently now than when I was in the ICU. I’m more understanding, receptive to collaborative work and have been humbled by the program and anesthesia profession. My little personal piece of advice is similar. A nursing friend once told me a saying that I love and thought I would share it. “Be humble, or be humiliated.” Nobody likes a “know it all” and that will only hurt you in the long run.
3. Be ok with accumulating debt while in school.
I was so worried about the cost of school and not being able to afford even the dollar menu at McDonald’s (does that even still exist?) lol. But the truth is, the federal government offers what they call Grad school plus loans. This is loan money in addition to FAFSA that you can receive. I’m fairly certain everyone is eligible for it. Just know, whatever your debt may be it will be worth it with the money you will make when you graduate. Please also note, I have no children and a spouse who is employed. However, my classmates that have kids and husband or wife are doing it somehow so it is definitely possible. The only question is, how bad do you want that title <insert your name here>, CRNA.
4. You can’t work while in school, it’s too hard (at least for the first year).
So I had a classmate who tried to work 1-2 days a month and he didn’t make it. He was removed from the program due to poor grades. However, not all programs are made the same. Mine is integrated with both didactic (classroom) and clinical simultaneously happening (such a hard method but beneficial). Other programs are designed with first year didactic and remaining year and a half clinical. You have to choose your poison because there are good and bad in both. Now, I didn’t work the first year and a half because it was literally impossible. But now that I am pretty much strictly clinical with class only 1 day a week, I got a per diem job in my city and work a few days a month. I never signed a contract with school saying I couldn’t work, so I am.
5. Prepare your loved ones regarding what you are about to go through.
Last and probably the most important discussion/information/advice I can give you…… prepare your loved ones. No matter the type of program you choose, it is not easy. Only a CRNA student or CRNA understand what it’s like going through this program. It’s intense, it’s hard, it’s rewarding in the end, but most of all it’s sooooo time-consuming. The first year was the hardest for me and my spouse. It can take a toll on relationships that’s for sure. Myself and 2 classmates got married in between scheduled clinical days, and some people had to have surgery on their “time off”. Others missed graduations, birthdays, and family events. One of my classmates had to bring her kid to class during test day cause she had no one to watch her child. I’m certainly not trying to scare you, but I think it’s important to inform you of my experiences that way you don’t walk in on day 1 and get completely blindsided. One thing I want to add is that I have yet to meet a CRNA who hates what they do. Not one. CRNA’s LOVE WHAT THEY DO!!!! And the money is great too!