If you go online for tips about getting into a CRNA school, you will find a lot of misconceptions that scare people from submitting their applications. Jenny Finnell attempts to disprove the most common CRNA myths and present the real deal about securing a successful admission. She explains why getting married is not a hindrance to your application, why a strong support system must never be set aside, how to make your student experience memorable, and many more.
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What Are Common Myths About Becoming A CRNA?
I’m so excited you found us and I’m so excited for your future. In this episode, we are going to talk about some myths or some commonly heard statements out there on the internet, whether that be through your peers, coworkers, managers, or even some CRNA influencers, which were mentioned inside our community. We’re going to talk about some statements that are commonly spread out there on the internet. We’re going to break them down a little bit and discuss them. They might be missing some of the truth. Sometimes, it’s what I call projection. We’re going to reveal what this is in a moment.
I want to start this whole episode by prefacing the fact that wherever you consume information, which is a lot of different places these days, be very cautious. This doesn’t necessarily come from people with ill intentions. I also want to say that. Typically, when people give advice or share their own experiences, it’s not meant to do harm, but sometimes, it can, especially if you take it in a way that feels like it’s something that’s going to hinder you. It may be something that you’re scared about and it creates fear around, “What if?”
I want to reiterate the fact that everyone’s experience going to CRNA school is going to be unique and different. You cannot let someone else’s experience affect how you think your experience is going to be. That’s the key take-home thing with this episode. I will save what are probably the two most controversial ones and one that I want to get into a little bit because it could be very harmful if it’s taken the wrong way. We’ll save that for the last few.
If You Are 40 Years Old And Above, No School Would Want You.
The first one that I’m going to cover is you may have heard, let’s say, if you’re older than 40 years old, that the schools are not going to want you or you’re not going to get into school. This was gathered from our community. CRNA School Prep Academy has a private community where our students can come gather. We have program faculty, including me, there who answer questions and provide support in the community. This was something that I hear a lot from students who are older.
I don’t think 40 is old. I hope 40 is not old. I’m getting there. Let’s say you’re fearful because all your peers or classmates are in their mid-20s or young 30 and you’re like, “I’m 45. They’re never going to want me. I’m a damaged good. They’re going to think I’m unteachable, that I’m too set in my ways, and all these other things.” You may have heard that.
Let me preface this by saying that this goes to show that when you project your own fears onto someone else, it can tend to make them equally fear that, “What if that is true?” The only person who can answer whether any of those things are true about you is you, yourself. Are you unteachable? Are you damaged goods? Are you set in your ways? Ask yourself if you feel that any of those statements are true for you. If your answer’s no, then the answer’s no. The answer is not going to hinder you because it is not true to who you are. That is something that’s key.
I want to reiterate again that when you hear these “myths” or statements from people who are projecting almost a judgment or a bias onto you, you have to then assess, “It may be true for some, but it’s not true for me.” I had another student on this show. He was not old, but when he started in the ICU, he realized that he maybe was somewhat unteachable and that he would find himself getting defensive. He was not opening up to the possibility that he could be wrong. He recognized that. It was very hard for him to recognize that. It’s okay because he still got in. He got into school, but he had to work on that. He had to reflect on that aspect of who he was and address it.
It doesn’t make you a bad person, incapable, or undeserving. It means we’re all human. Let’s face it. We all have flaws and that’s okay. It’s a matter of facing that flaw and saying, “I can improve on that. Maybe I can be a little more closed off when it comes to taking advice from others who I see under me. That may be from a new nurse who shouldn’t be giving me direction because I’ve been doing this for many years. Who are they to say I should do it this way?” Maybe it wasn’t meant to come across that way, but maybe you took it that way because you got defensive. Why is that? Is there nothing you can learn because they’re several years younger? I would say no.Humans have flaws, and that’s okay. It’s a matter of how to face those flaws and improve yourself. Click To Tweet
The reality is when you enter the clinical realm of practicing anesthesia, and you enter school and you’re in your mid to late 40s or even 50s, the vast majority of people who will be giving you guidance and their feedback are going to be younger than you. You have to address if that’s how you are and how you feel if you have a problem with that because it will be a problem. Typically, the schools will sniff that out usually during the interview process.
The reality is that if you are older and go back to CRNA school, you can do it 110%. If you want this and you are open to being teachable and taking feedback from others who will be younger than you and who maybe have less ICU nursing experience than you but equally have more experience from the anesthesia field, you’re going to be okay.
If you feel like you’re set in your ways, do you find yourself not wanting to step out of your normal routines? What happens if you get something that’s completely out of what you’re used to? Does it get you flustered, agitated, restless, and anxious? If that’s the case, it’s okay. There is nothing wrong with you. That means you’re human, but assess why. Ask, “Why does that make me feel so uncomfortable? How can I try to change that mindset or that framework of being uncomfortable into embracing the challenge and looking forward to doing something different and something out of my comfort zone so I can grow as a person and as a practitioner?”
It’s okay if you fall into daily routines and habits, but you have to assess why it makes you feel so uncomfortable to be pushed out of that comfort zone. Typically, if you’ve been an ICU nurse for 10 to 15 years, assess where you are in that. This is a blanket statement because it doesn’t cover everyone. If you get thrown into something that you’ve never done before or you have a new way of being told to do something, does it completely throw you off or not?
Don’t get me wrong. Doing something different, that’s unsafe is a complete no. I’m not saying that. I’m saying things that are safe but not the way you like to do them. There’s a big difference. Assess if that’s where you’re at, and then work on it. You then will be ready. You’ll be ready to enter CRNA school if you address those issues.
Even young nurses can fall under this trap. It doesn’t mean because you’re older that you necessarily have these traps. The reason why people say this blanket statement out there on the internet is that typically, we are creatures of habit that we do tend to follow similar routines. Especially over time, those routines become habits and they get set in stone. We all do it. I’m not any different.Humans are creatures of habit that tends to follow similar routines. These routines become habits that are set in stone. Click To Tweet
I’m a preceptor in the anesthesia world, and I have a lot of students. I love working with students because they bring a breath of fresh air into my clinical practice. I ask them questions about how they want to try something and do something. I share my experiences. In the process of sharing my experiences with them, I realize that I don’t do certain things anymore because I learned that I didn’t like the result or I didn’t like the way it made me feel, or I thought it was a little bit too risky, etc.
For example, we were talking about masking and doing a mask case. You need masking skills. One of my CRNAs had me mask all day in four different cases. It was about 4 to five 5 of straight masking. I couldn’t even hold my steering wheel driving home. I had a massive sevo headache. I could taste sevoflurane. It was so bad. The headache was unreal. That was not fun, but it was a good experience for me as a student.
I started reflecting back on the experience I had as a relatively new CRNA where I was suggested to mask this case. It was going to be a quick case. It was an IND of the shin. The patient was younger. I can’t remember the exact age, but he was a teenager and morbidly obese. This came from me being inexperienced, not having the insight, and being told, “This is how you should do this case.” I was like, “Okay.” It was terrifying. It was this violent stage two with no airway. My hand was cringing around the mass trying to keep the good seal. They were heaving off the bed. It was one of those situations where I was like, “I will never do that again.”
I shared that because I like to share stories like that. We were getting ready to do this case. I wanted to preface with the fact that I have to assess the body habits and how difficult the masking may be. The more muscular, the more older the child, typically, the more muscle mass you have and the more heaving and violent stage two you’re going to go through masking. With all that being said, I found myself almost not wanting to do it that way because of my experience, but I equally was like, “If you want to try it,” after looking at the patient and assessing that the body habits were such that the facial aspects of him were within range.
You never opt into something that’s not safe, but all that being said, I found myself being hesitant because of my previous experience, which was equally hindering my students’ experience. Ultimately, I wasn’t allowed to be his call. I had to talk that through and share why I was having hesitations about wanting to do it that way.
I went off on a tangent, but I equally fall into similar habits and routines from my experiences. As an experienced, seasoned ICU nurse, you do the same thing. It’s important to reflect on that. That was one of the situations that made me reflect, “Why am I getting so worked up about this? Why is it such a big deal to me?” I reflected and I was like, “It’s because of that one experience. Is it okay for me to pass that experience onto the student who’s trying to learn and grow?”
I, equally as a student, had an entire mask day and I did find those patients were fine. I didn’t have a bad experience with that, but I got to do that. Here I am almost hesitant to do something because I had one bad experience. I want to highlight that. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s assessing where that’s coming from and then truly assessing the new situation at hand, whether that’s necessary.
We’ll move on. That was number one. I went off on quite a bit of tangent around that. I had someone in my class back in 2012 when I started CRNA school that was 52 years old when they graduated. Age is a number. You have to ask yourself mentally whether you are wanting this, whether you are willing to be a student again, or whether you are excited to change career paths. If you are, then go for it. I always suggest running the numbers and assessing how much debt you would take on. Do you have the cash to pay for this? How many working years do you have left? You should know when your target retirement date was.
I also equally worked with a CRNA who retired in his late 60s, but he worked until he was 71 as PRN locum. He worked for another 3 or 4 years as a locum CRNA before he fully retired. Know what your timeline is and then do the math. Run the numbers and make sure it makes sense for you. Otherwise, don’t hold yourself back. Age is just a number.
Being In Nursing For More Than Five Years Decreases Your Chances Of Getting Into A CRNA School.
The next question is similar but more on the nursing practice side of things. If you’ve been in nursing greater than five years, it decreases your chances of getting into school. It goes into maybe not an age thing, but the fact that you’ve been set in your ways that you’re not moldable anymore or that you’re not adaptable. This equally came from Dr. Wilson who responded to this question, but it is one of those things where it depends on how you approach this situation.
If you’ve been at the bedside for over 5, 10, 12 years, or whatever it may be, it can be a positive, but it can also be negative like a lot of the similar reasons that I highlighted in the last one as far as age goes. I will tell you that in my time being a preceptor, I’ve worked with a lot of students and different programs. I’ve had students who come into the OR, but they’ve been ICU student nurses for fifteen years, and they’re rock stars. From day one, they’re smooth. They’re comfortable. They’re good at IVs. They’re good at all physical tasks. They pick up all the physical skills pretty quickly. They equally seem to be able to move pretty quickly with the OR. They seem to be able to do that critical thinking very quickly.
Some nurses who are maybe not as seasoned or nurses who maybe have a year or meet that minimum ICU requirement coming to the OR, in the beginning, tend to be a little less polished. That is a good way to put it in a nice way. They’re a little more forgetful. They seem to get overwhelmed and have a hard time seeing the big picture. There’s nothing wrong with that. What I will say is that the student who comes in with more experience, even though he or she tends to be a little more polished in the beginning, it’s up to their mindset, attitude, and personality as far as how they advance.
Despite this, I have seen nurses who have a lot of clinical backgrounds not be open to suggestions, open to change, or adaptable because it’s more along the lines of maybe they think they know best. It’s the same thing. Maybe they’re set in what they want to do whereas the people who don’t have that experience are moldable.
Where they were less polished in the beginning, they tend to come up with their counterparts who have more experience and sometimes surpass them but only because of that one thing. It’s because their mindset’s more open. They’re like, “I’m a newbie. Give me everything. I’m going to soak it up like a sponge. I’m humble. I don’t think I know best. Give me all your things. I’ll take all that stuff in your brain.” Whereas someone who comes in who’s a little bit less open to that don’t grow as quickly knowledge and clinical-base wise because they’re a little more closed off. That is the only thing I’ve seen.
It doesn’t happen all the time. Trust me. There have been plenty of people who are not like that who flourish even from day one all the way through graduation day. I’m simply stating the reality of what I have come to see in practice. It’s not often. If I had to compare the pathways, that’s what I have seen. I’m pretty sure that’s why schools equally look for that. I’m not saying this to scare you. I’m simply saying this to be acknowledging where you’re at mentally or mindset-wise when you’re going into CRNA school.
You go in as a newbie. Even though you’ve had a lot of experience, you’re going in as a newbie. As long as you take that, you’re humble, you’re open to hearing feedback, and you’re asking for feedback, you’re going to be okay. It’s going to be okay. You’re going to do great. This can be a positive if you express that willingness and openness to be a student again. You’re excited to be a student again. You’re excited to learn, be a sponge and soak it all in, take direction, and learn from your preceptors. If you express that coming with your clinical background, you are going to be golden. You just have to make sure you’re expressing the fact that that’s what you’re here for.
If You Have Kids, You Will Not Be Successful In CRNA School.
The next thing that you will hear is that if you have kids, you will not be successful in CRNA school. This can go either way and here’s why. It depends on your support system, number one. I’m not criticizing non-parents, so please don’t take it that way. I’m saying that I didn’t have kids in school. If anything, I’m reflecting on my own personal self, so please don’t take this personally. I know how I was in school and I know how I am now. We have three kids. I have a lot more direction in my life now that we have kids mostly because I don’t have as much free time, which sounds counterintuitive.
Here’s how to think about it. Have you ever had a slow day in the ICU and then find yourself forgetting to do things, and you’re getting behind? You’re like, “How? This is so small. How am I getting behind? How am I forgetting to do things?” Whereas when you have busy days and you’re going on a good clip, you’re on top of it. You get your stuff done. You’re on it. I personally experienced that quite a bit when I was in the ICU.
How I can best describe being a parent is that there is no time to screw around. It is all business from start to finish. From top to bottom of your day, you are business. You’re like, “One of these is done.” You’re more organized because you have to be. If you’re not, it is complete chaos. It’s usually chaos. The other thing, too, is that you’re more used to juggling and dealing with being adaptable in chaos because most of your days are going to be filled with that. Unexpected things arise or shifts in schedule, or dealing with random emotions, lash outs, outbursts, sicknesses, and illnesses. You’re still toughing it through your day despite being sick.
There’s no such thing as laying on the couch and taking a nap when you’re sick. It’s like, “I’ve got to cook dinner. I’ve got to clean the house. I’ve got to get their diaper changed. They’re sick. I’ve got to give them Tylenol.” In the meantime, you’re with a fever. You’re sweating. You’re like, “I’m going to get through this day.” You’re fine. You’re going to have to survive because you got other humans to take care of despite how you feel. It’s like you get gritty becoming a parent because it’s not about you anymore. It’s about someone else.
I’m speaking for myself. Please don’t take this personally. I hope you don’t. I’m saying if you’re a parent, you are more than capable because you are a parent. If you can compare it, you could do CRNA school 100%. Please do not feel like you are not going to be successful. It can be the opposite. Back to my first point, you need support. That’s huge.
If you try to do all the things, be the parent, and commit to CRNA school, you’re going to be left pretty empty. I’m being quite honest with you. You need someone to step in there and do a good chunk of the parenting for you during those times when you can’t. That means picking up the kids from school, doing the grocery shopping, doing the cooking, and doing the cleaning so you can focus on school. You’re not going to be able to do it all.
Parenting in itself is a lot of work. All the other daily tasks and chores are going to probably have to be deferred to your significant other. They’re going to have to smile through it the whole time and not make you feel bad or guilty about it. You have to have these conversations early that if you’re typically the housekeeper, you’re the one making sure the house is all pretty, tidy, decorated, and you’re the one doing grocery shopping, organizing the kids’ schedules, and planning all the things, you’re going to have to have a real heart-to-heart life conversation and say, “Here are all the things I do on a monthly basis. What do you want? You’re going to take probably half of this off my plate because that time has to be put into schoolwork.”
That’s the reality of it. While you’re good at juggling, doing a lot of things, and having the grit to get through, you have to be realistic with you are human. You also equally can’t kill yourself, and you will if you try to do it all. With that being said, I know people who enter CRNA school as single parents. I don’t know how, but I equally know they have either a nanny, family, or friends who help out and support them. You have to have support. You have to be realistic with your significant other on what the expectations are going to be, that it’s not going to be the same. It’s temporary, but it’s not going to be the same. You’re going to have to figure out how to multitask a little bit more.
I’m not a fan of multitasking. I do it. Don’t get me wrong, but if you truly need to be dedicated to learning, multitasking is a bad way to learn. Think about it. You can never truly do two things at once and do them each incredibly well. If you want to do something incredibly well, you got to put all your laser focus into that one thing. I’m not saying multitasking’s bad, but if all you’re doing is multitasking, you’re probably going to struggle in school. You have to dedicate strict time zones. You block off times in your schedule where it’s school. That’s it. It’s not laundry and school, but just school. That’s my recommendation.
I’m not saying, “Don’t listen to your notes while you’re folding laundry.” By all means, do it, but make sure you’re still dedicating space to where all you’re doing is schoolwork and not trying to equally cook dinner at the same time. You do what you have to do to get through certain days, but make it a priority to do that. That’s what I have to say about being a parent in CRNA school.
I had so much free time when I was in CRNA school. I didn’t have any kids. I had a dog. I played Candy Crush for an hour when I got home from clinical. That’s free time. I still managed to get great grades. Don’t get me wrong. My days were long. They were stressful. I spent a lot of my weekends studying, but I had the freedom to do that. I didn’t have to feel guilty about having kids to want to play with.
I feel for parents out there who are going to CRNA school. What you’re getting ready to do is incredibly hard. I have to say. It’s going to be heartbreaking. I want to give you a big virtual hug because I get it. I feel guilty sometimes when I work and our kids are like, ”Play with me.” You’re like, “I want to play with you, but I have to equally work. Do you want Christmas toys? I’ve got to work.”
You’re doing this for your kids, too. Remember that. It is not just your kids but also your family and significant other. This is all hands on deck. You’re doing this for your entire family and your life. You’re going to have a better work-life balance. You’re going to make more income. You’re going to have more flexibility when you’re done with school. You’re not going to have to work weekends, nights, and holidays. You are doing this for a better future with your family, so you have to be open and remind your kids.You get a better work-life balance after CRNA school. You will make more income and have more flexibility once you graduate. You will not have to work on weekends, nights, or holidays. Click To Tweet
Depending on their age, get them involved. Let them help you. Have them quiz you. Make them feel a part of your journey. It’s going to be a lot more rewarding. You can then say, “When mommy or daddy is done with school, we’re going to go to Disney. We’re going to celebrate,” because you’re going to have the money to do that. Put them in it with you and let them know that at the end, there’s going to be a big reward. It will make the sacrifices not seem as hurtful.
Don’t get me wrong. CRNA school’s hard regardless of whether you have kids. I equally have heard of students who have no support system. They don’t have a significant other and they’re struggling financially. I was incredibly grateful that I had a spouse who was working. I could be on this health insurance. He made enough to pay our rent. We were still taking out loans for living expenses and things like that, but it was enough to pay our rent. I was incredibly grateful to have that income.
It can be incredibly financially stressful when you’re on your own. You have no significant other to help support you financially. There are always positives and negatives to every situation. Equally, kids are expensive. It’s more of a financial burden as well to have kids, but it is possible. You can do it. You have got to plan for it. I know you’re good at planning because every parent’s good at planning. You have to be. That’s what I have to say about that.
The Market Is Saturated With CRNAs.
For the next one, I laughed at this. I was like, “What?” I want to point out some things about this. This isn’t about school. When people say the market is saturated with FNPs or Family Nurse Practitioners, I laugh at that. I was like, “What?” I had to dig in a little bit because I was like, “I can’t believe that you heard this from a CRNA.”
Here’s what I want to preface. If you ever hear something like this that doesn’t come directly from an actual CRNA, run. That is not advice that you should take to heart. Unless you’re in this profession and based on your physical, personal experience that you cannot find a job, you have no right to comment on it. I would never comment on an FNP job. I won’t say, “You would never become an FNP. You can’t find a job.” I’m not an FNP. Ask one of them, please. I don’t know. Some may struggle and some may not. Get some perspective from people who are in the weeds doing it.
Both I and Dr. Wilson were like, “That’s completely false. That is not true.” Our hospital systems are hurting so badly for CRNAs. It’s insane. I’ve been on this career path for eight years. Don’t get me wrong. I’ve always had people scouting and being reached out to, but in the last couple of years, it’s taken up a notch. In fact, I got done working in a locum position because it was such a great hourly rate that I felt like I couldn’t pass it up. That’s everywhere.
Hospitals are competing and trying to steal staff. It’s not oversaturated. It’s not going to be for a very long time because hospitals are all expanding, at least from my experience. They’re all adding OR suites. They’re all expanding their services for the most part. They’re growing. Yet, we’re not growing at the same pace that they’re expanding. I want to say we have fourteen ORs. The CRNAs that I work with say that several years ago, they only had six. They’ve more than doubled. They’re adding more ORs still. They’ve more than doubled in the past several years. There is no shortage.
After investigating, it was the charge nurse who said this statement. Think about it. They’re like, “They’re saturated. If you want to go to CRNA School, you’ll never find a job. Stay here and work at my ICU, please. I have over time. Do you want to pick it up?” Take consideration whom you’re taking advice from. Don’t let that deter you from doing what you want to do. Assess your area. Shadow a CRNA. Ask them, “What’s the job market like around here?” They’ll tell you.
Equally, why shadow? You have to shadow. Can I say that enough? Please, shadow. You should shadow a CRNA more than once and then get to know them. They end up being good references. They’ll be giving you some insight into this career path. It’s an invaluable experience. Shadow a CRNA, ask them, and then you can make that judgment call, whether the market in your area is saturated or not. I’ve never heard of such a thing.
CRNA Programs Won’t Take PICU Nurses.
The next one is that programs won’t take PICU nurses. For PICU, NICU, and this is a blanket statement even for ER nurses, you have to know what you’re walking into. You have to know what your schools accept. You have to know that when they say individual basis, that means it’s not preferred. They’re going to say, “It’s not preferred, but we’ll consider.” That’s what it should say because that’s what it means. Individual basis means, “It’s not preferred, but we will consider it.”
When you take into account, typically for every seat, these schools are getting about six applications. That’s the average. They have 4 to 6 applications for one seat. That’s about 25% or fewer odds of getting that one seat. When you consider it, that’s what we’re at with the odds. If they have 6 people for one spot and out of those 6 people, 4 of them have preferred strong ICU experience and 2 of them have what they don’t prefer but may consider, why would they consider it? That’s the perspective I want to give you.
I’m a PCRNA. I love kids. I equally think PICU nurses see a wide range of ages. They have very strong, in my opinion, ICU experience. I even worked with a CRNA who was a PICU nurse. One of her strengths was that she knew all the weight-based dosing because she was so accustomed to it as an ICU nurse. It’s a strength. I had been an adult CRNA for the vast majority of my career until I went to pediatrics. In one day, I could have a 16-month-old and then an 18-year-old or a 20-year-old. They have massively different vital signs, hemodynamics, fluid management, and drug metabolism. You name it. It’s vastly different. You have to be on your toes.
I used to think adults were very mindful, but pediatrics is even more so. It’s a different physiology between the two age ranges that keep you on your toes. As a PICU nurse, you similarly do that, which is a big strength. You’re adaptable to that. With that being said, if a program says on an individual basis for PICU experience or a NICU experience, you have to take that to heart. You have to understand that if you’re only applying to this one school and this is your top school because this is where you want to be and you want to be there no matter what, consider getting experience that they do prefer versus consider. Don’t do the considered experience. Do the one they want, which may be in the adult ICU.
I’m not saying don’t try. If you’re like, “I’ve been a PICU nurse for years now. I have everything else I need,” apply. I’m saying that if you don’t get in, don’t say, “I’m not good enough. I’ll never be able to do this.” Go get adult experience and come back. That would be my suggestion. I’ve had plenty of people who are like, “I’m going to give it my best shot.” By all means, do, please. I’m not discouraging you from applying. Please don’t take it that way. Know that if you don’t succeed, that’s something to consider.
Maybe they have 4 applications for one seat and out of those 4 applications, they give 3 or 2 of them an interview and you get to be that number two person. Typically, if you get asked for an interview, you’ve almost increased your odds of getting in to about 40% to 50%. They typically interview more than double what they have room for. If you get an interview, your odds have doubled from the standard application. With all that being said, that’s your time to shine.
Where a lot of people go wrong is they think, “They’re going to ask me all these peds questions.” Not necessarily. They might quiz you on adult physiology. You have to make sure you’re strong even though you typically deal a lot with little baby physiology. Think about that. If you rock your interview, more power to you. Chances are you’re still going to get in.
Please don’t be discouraged. Know that’s what that means. It’s not that they won’t take it. If they say they take it, they’ll take it. On an individual basis, some will say, “We take PICU.” If they say, “We take PICU,” and they list it as one of the units they take, then no worries at all. Go for it, but still know your adult physiology for the interview process. If they say, “We take it, but on an individual basis,” know that if you give it a shot and you don’t get in, get adult experience and come back. Maybe brush up on your adult physiology for the interview next time. If you don’t even get an interview, then get adult experience and come back.
Those are some of the other answers to that. This is by Dr. Wilson. He said, “Some won’t, but a number of them will.” It used to be because PICU nurses didn’t have high board passing rates, but that’s been changing. When they say they make judgment calls on things like ER, NICU experience, and things like that, they are looking at statistics. They are looking at, “Out of all the 3,000 students who graduate every year, where do they come from? What was their background, and what was their board passing?” Overall in the big picture, they look at that. That’s where they get these yesses and nos to certain backgrounds because they ultimately see what the success rate is.
The PICU nurses have been killing it, so keep killing it. A lot of schools have been opening up to allow PICU nurses in their programs. A lot of schools will say yes to PICU and no to NICU. Consider that. NICU, the Neonatal ICU, not Neuro-ICU, is such a niche form of ICU nursing. It’s such a small realm of ICU nursing. They worry that your experience is such a narrow experience whereas PICU, they know has a little more variety. You’re going to have a baby and maybe an older teenager, which is practically adult physiology at that point. We had someone say, “I’m a PICU nurse. I got in.” Hopefully, you don’t feel like it is over for you. It’s not.
You Cannot Get In If You Only Have One Year Of ICU Experience.
The next one is that you can’t get in with one year of ICU experience. That is 100% not true. Many of our students have gotten in with barely meeting the minimum one-year ICU experience. In fact, we had a student who I was almost hesitant to say, “Go for it,” because I was like, “That’s not a lot.” There was such a big delay from when the application cycle was closing to when they interviewed and got in that by the time she would start the program, she would have over a year of experience.
When she applied, she barely had six months, so I was like, “I don’t know.” When she interviewed, she did not have a year of time for the time of the interview, but she got in. She had teed up everything else in her application. She rocked her interview. It can happen. Equally, a good friend of mine who is an amazing CRNA does a lot of regional. She instructs and teaches well. She was gung ho. She was a 4.0 student. She got right into the ICU. She graduated early from college. She was always gung ho.
She got into a program that typically wouldn’t have accepted someone like her with only six months of ICU experience. She had to sign a waiver that she stayed full-time in the ICU up until the program started so she’d have that year. Schools are not going to budge on that. You will have to have that year, so they will know that. That means if you do a good job and they like you, they’ll look and say, “You don’t meet that year requirement, so you have to stay full-time. It’s contingent on your actual admission. That means if you were to leave that ICU, you would forfeit your seat.” They do want you to meet that year requirement by the time you start the program.
Think about it. A lot of these programs are interviewing 6 to 9 months prior to starting their programs. That’s why mostly, they have three years. They may have interviewed around year two and then by the time they started, they practically had three years. That was at least my experience. I got in when I had about two years of experience. I had almost three years of ICU experience when I started the program because of the delay. I interviewed in October and I started in June of the following year.
The Medical ICU Is Unwanted.
The next is that the medical ICU is unwanted. If the case, I’m in trouble because I was a medical ICU nurse. There’s so much out there that says you have to be a CVICU nurse. That’s the best. I have no idea. It’s a great experience. Don’t get me wrong. I was also equally an open heart nurse CRNA for four and a half years. I love the CVICU. It’s amazing. With that being said, don’t poo-poo your experience if you come from the SICU, NICU, or something like that because those patients have failing hearts, too. The medical ICU patients are sick and a lot of them don’t get better. You keep dead people alive. That’s what you do.
Anyhow, don’t poo-poo your experience. Question whether you’re in a very high MICU. Don’t get me wrong. Some MICUs are not very acute. The acuity is not that great. You have to assess that. Are you dealing with ventilators every day? Are you titrating vasopressor drips every single week that you’re at work? Are you dealing with things like CRT and HFOV?
We had cranial bolts even in the medical ICU on occasion. I don’t think I saw a lot of Swans. I only probably saw 1 or 2 Swans. We had a pretty high acute cardiac ICU that those would go to. We had some sick patients with GI bleeds, thyroid storms, and cancer everywhere. We maxed on every vasopressor patient. There are a lot of renal failures, a lot of sepsis, and a lot of ARDS.
I’m not comparing whatever I went through to what years have come, but back when I was graduating, the H1N1 was the big deal. There were girls my age delivering babies in the ICU and then stillbirths. There were a lot of pregnant girls and a lot of girls that were losing their arms and limbs from necrosis from the H1N1 spurt. We put them in a DIC situation.
Question your acuity. It doesn’t matter whether it’s MICU, but if you hardly see a ventilated patient and only on an occasion a vasopressor, that’s not enough. You need to see people who are on death’s door. That’s good acuity right there. As long as you can prove that through your resume and them quizzing your knowledge when they interview you, you’re going to be okay.
You don’t have to have level one either. That’s also a myth here. They’re like, “You have to have level one experience.” Level 2 and level 1 are pretty much very similar in acuity. The biggest difference is that level one gets the level one status because they’re more of an educational center that does a lot of research where, typically, level two doesn’t. That’s not always the case, but I’m saying if you think of the blanket statement that you’ll see out there, the acuity is usually very similar.
Don’t worry if you’re a level two. You’re fine if you don’t have any trauma designation. It’s the same thing. I’ve seen people come with pretty high acute experiences from non-trauma designated hospitals, but it leaves a lot to be questioned by the faculty who don’t know that hospital. People assume, “I work at so-and-so,” and they think this name is known by everyone.
I remember someone. They had something Swedish Hospital. I was like, “They get an ICU to experience overseas?” That’s how I thought. I had no idea it was an actual name of a hospital, but they were like, “You haven’t heard of them?” I’m like, “No. That’s California. I have no idea. I’m in Ohio.” Keep that in mind. Maybe it’s the Mayo Clinic. That’s pretty world-renowned. There are places in other states that you think are well-known in that state, but it’s not going to be known somewhere else.
Maybe these faculty are more accustomed to seeing different hospitals because they see so many applications every year, but don’t assume that they’re going to know your hospital’s high acuity. Make your resume shine. Let me go off on the soapbox for a second because I’ve been reviewing a lot of applications. We launched our CRNA Guarantee Program, which I’m so excited about.
I’ve been reviewing a lot of applications and looking at resumes. I’m shocked if I’m being perfectly honest, and somewhat sad because the resumes are not doing you justice. Please look at your resumes. There are some that are amazing that these programs will be like, “I can’t wait to interview this person,” and then there are some that are like, “Really? They don’t even look like resumes. They’re like paragraphs.” I’m like, “What’s going on? It’s not even a resume.” I’m not saying this to be cruel or mean. Please don’t take it that way. I genuinely want to help you. There are a lot of students that I’m going to be like, “You need a resume edit. You need some major help on this.”
I ask other questions on the application. They’re not highlighting their committee work. They’re not highlighting their precept. They’re saying they’re precepting, but they didn’t put it on their resume. They’re saying they’re on a committee, but it’s not on their resume. It’s like, “Oh, my gosh.” You’re missing a huge opportunity. Back when I was doing more mock interviews, I noticed that a lot, too. I’d interview them and I’d gather a lot of this great information from the interview, but then, I’d be like, “It’s not even on your resume. Why?”
The first impression these schools are getting from you is from your resume. Please do yourself a favor and have someone edit your resume. Look it over. Do a peer-to-peer swap. I’m not saying you have to pay for a resume edit, but do at least a peer-to-peer swap if you can. There is a lot of help on TeachRN.
If you want to pay for a resume edit, there are SRNAs who can help you beef up your resume. Make sure you’re highlighting all your strengths. It’s sad to see because I want the best for you. I want these schools to be excited to meet you. I’m excited to meet you, but I want to see you shine on your resume. Please be sure to take your resume to heart and make sure you do a thorough look over it. That’s enough of that soapbox.
If You Get Behind In CRNA School, You Will Fail Out.
There are three more. This one is that CRNA school is like drinking from a fire hose. If you get behind, you’ll fail out. I know I’m guilty of saying this. It does feel like that. At least the majority of people that I’ve talked to do agree, but please, see what it feels like for yourself. I’m saying it’s not that it’s not manageable, but if you compare it to the pace that you’re used to, meaning what you’ve dealt with in nursing school, it’s going to be incredibly fast. That is why most describe it as drinking from a fire hose. It’s doable, but it’s not what you’re used to.
Unless you came from maybe an accelerated nursing program, the pace is quick. They have a lot to get through in the didactic portion of your schoolwork, so you move. They don’t slow down. They don’t say, “Go back.” They keep going. For me, it felt pretty quick, but I did fine. I didn’t have any problems falling behind. I struggled early on in college. I didn’t get into the college of nursing. My GPA wasn’t strong enough. I was faced with that challenge early on in my academic career.
I had always struggled growing up with grades. I found out pretty late in my academic career, in high school, that I had dyslexia. I had learning disabilities. I always knew that because I was put in tutoring, IQ testing, slow remedial classes, and all that jazz. I always felt hindered. I believed I was stupid. It was awful. I laugh because I can, but back then, it hurt.
With all that being said, it smacked dabbed in my face. I was sucker punched my freshman year in college when I didn’t get into nursing because my GPA wasn’t high enough. I felt like a huge failure. I felt like, “I’m never going to survive. I’m never going to be successful. I’m doomed.” It was at that pivotal point in my life, which I’m so grateful for, that I experienced it when I did. It saved me later on when I advanced my career to CRNA school.
What it forced me to do back then when I was nineteen years old is I had to figure it out. I said, “I’m going to do this. I’ll be damned if anyone’s going to tell me no.” I was like, “Watch me. I’m going to figure it out.” I’ve always adopted that mentality. I was like, “I may not be successful. This may not work, but you better believe I’m going to come back and I’m going to do it again. I’m going to keep trying to figure out how to do it differently and better until I am successful.” That was the mentality that I adopted back then.
I strived for straight As for the first time in my entire life. I said, “I’ve got to figure out how to get straight As.” I knew that was the only way to get my GPA high enough to even be considered for the college of nursing at this university. I didn’t want to leave. The love of my life was there. I’m married to my husband, but he was there. I met him in my freshman year. I had such great girlfriends who I’m still friends with. I had my life there. I had my life in this college. I’m like, “I’m not leaving. I’m not giving up. I’m not walking home with my tail between my legs. I’m going to figure this out. I’m going to get straight As. I’m going to get into the College of Nursing and I’m going to become a freaking nurse,” and I did.
I got straight As for the first time. I still almost get choked up when I think about it. I bawled my eyes out when I got that report card and saw that I had done that for the first time in my entire life. What I’m getting at by this is that if you address your study techniques and how you learn, you can do anything you want. It’s a matter of adapting to what’s best for you. I guarantee you can learn anything as long as your style and technique are effective. It does mean it’s not going to take some trial and error. It does mean you might fail. It’s not going to feel easy. It’s going to feel hard.
In fact, learning that’s effective does not feel easy. It’s going to feel like you stink. It’s going to feel like, “I can’t get this.” Since you’re trying so hard, that effort is what produces the learning. It’s the active recall. It’s the pain in your brain that you’re like, “I’ve got to freaking remember.” That triggers this burst of neurons saying, “Pull that information out of this file in that brain.”
That painful effort that it takes to try to recall and relate the information to something else is what builds the ability for you to be a successful learner. If you don’t address this prior to starting CRNA school, it will feel like a fire hose. If you address your learning style prior to starting, and I know some of you are like, “What am I going to do now? I’m not even in school anymore.”, take a graduate-level course.
A lot of times, it’s never a bad idea to do before you start CRNA school anyways to boost your GPA for example. I’m not saying that if you’re a 4.0, you should take a class to take a class. If you have to get a class anyways, challenge yourself with that class. Get an A. You do not want to take a course before CRNA school and not get an A. Challenge yourself in that class. Go overboard. Go crazy. Try different study techniques.
Back in 2005, I googled everything I could possibly find on study techniques and tried them all. I took an entire college course that summer. I made it my goal to figure out how to get As. I lived in the TA office. They probably hated me. I was at the TA office during office hours and asked tons of questions. I sat in the front row. I was the annoying kid. I became super obsessed. I was like, “I have to figure this out. It means I have to be that student who’s going to be gung ho.” That’s what I did. I didn’t back off. I wouldn’t say I’m the student who was always gung ho. I don’t always sit in the front of the room. It forced me to get a grip on how I learned.
The biggest piece of advice I have to give you before you start CRNA school is to know that the pace is going to be something that you probably haven’t experienced before but that is doable. It’s fun information. That’s the way I saw it, too. This is cool stuff you’re learning. It’s a lot of fun. It’s a lot of work, and that’s okay. Work is good. You work hard, but it’s rewarding and enjoyable. The mindset around what you’re doing can help. If you’re doing something you’re scared of or that you feel not confident with, it’s going to feel more painful than if you’re like, “This is exciting. I’m becoming a CRNA. I’m learning how to be a CRNA. Let’s do it.” It allows you to feel differently about what you’re doing. It allows you to push through the hard times.If you’re doing something you’re scared of or you feel not confident with, it will feel more painful than exciting. Click To Tweet
If You Are Married, You’ll Most Likely Get Divorced In CRNA School.
This one is that if you’re married, you’ll most likely get a divorce in CRNA school. I’m going to start slow with this. If you go into CRNA school in a dysfunctional relationship, if you’re already struggling, or if you’ve already cheated, what are the odds that it’s going to happen again? If you’re already dealing with a lot of dysfunction, it’s like putting fuel on a fire. You’re going to be dumping gasoline on that fire.
My biggest piece of advice to you is if you’re having relationship problems before school, you have to deal with it. There’s counseling. You have got to get through it. You’ve got to handle it face-on because it won’t get better. The only people I knew in school who had issues went into school with a bad relationship, those are the ones who broke up. Those are the ones who cheated. Those are the ones who got divorced or the ones who already had problems. The ones who did not have problems all made it out perfectly fine, including all my girlfriends.
In fact, one of my classmates married a classmate. How cool is that? They met the love of their life in CRNA school and got married after school. Beauty does happen in CRNA school even in the realm of stress. If you already have problems, it’s not going to get better. You’re putting gasoline on a fire. It’s going to explode. That’s as simple as that. If someone you know got a divorce in CRNA school, maybe you don’t know the whole backstory. Chances are you don’t know what they started with and what their relationship was like prior to going to school.
I’ve heard some pretty somewhat alarming things. I’ve heard students come out and say, “I’m scared because my partner’s not supportive. They still want me to do all these things. They don’t want to help me pay for anything.” I’m like, “You’re married?” That’s scary. I thought when you marry, it’s like, “My blood’s your blood. If you hemorrhage, I hemorrhage. That’s the way it goes.” Not all relationships are like that. Being respectful that everyone’s different and unique and you’re going in with different unique circumstances is something you have to address head-on.
The relationships that struggle the most are the ones that don’t go into it with a good understanding. That is one thing. The expectations are not set with your time constraints, what you’re going to probably be saying no to more often, and things like that. People take those things personally. If your significant others used to seeing you every weekend, spending that time with you, doing all these things, and you spoiling them by making them lunch every day, you’re like, “What about making me lunch? Maybe I have to say no to you.” They start taking that stuff personally.
People are naturally inclined to say, “It must be me. I must not be enough for them anymore. They’re going to go off and they’re going to meet a doctor. They’re going to marry a doctor.” If they’re going with jealousy, that needs to be addressed. Where’s that coming from? That’s what needs to be addressed prior to starting school. That’s my advice for you for relationships. You’re not going to get a divorce. It’ll be okay.
I also want to frame it that if you’re going to divorce in CRNA school, more than likely, it probably would’ve happened at some point in your relationship anyways. It depends on what the stressor is. What if it happened after you had kids and then the gasoline was poured after you had kids? Trust me. Kids do that, too. Kids will pour gasoline on a fire because they’re a stressor. It goes to show that stressful things in life, no matter what they are, whether it’s CRNA school, having kids, dealing with a sick parent, or whatever it is, pours gasoline on a situation.
If the situation’s already out of control and not being fixed, nurtured, or addressed, it’s probably not going to get better. It’s not the CRNA school’s fault. I’m not saying it’s anyone’s fault, so don’t take it that way. It’s a stressor. That’s all CRNA school is. It’s not like it’s the stressor. It’s just a stressor. If you look at it like that, you’re going to have multiple stressors throughout your life, and this is going to be one of them. That’s my advice for that.
Most CRNA Students Have Serious Thoughts Of Suicide.
There is one last thing and the most important thing that I want to address. I’ve already gone long in this episode, so I do apologize. Thank you for staying with me. Someone said they heard a CRNA influencer tell them that most CRNA students have serious thoughts of suicide while in school. First, that is unfortunate. That person is projecting that onto other people. That is detrimental, unfortunate, and should not ever be done. With that being said, that’s what it is. It is projection. It’s like, “You’re going to get divorced in CRNA school.” That’s projection.
It’s not because you had an experience that you think everyone else is going to experience the same thing. You’re like, “You shouldn’t do that.” Remember what I said about the whole masking incident? That was scary. My one experience made me fearful of ever doing it again because it was terrifying. It was one of those situations I was like, “It doesn’t mean masking itself was bad. It means that I shouldn’t have tried to mask a morbidly obese teenager.”
Masking, in general, is not bad, but it was a situation I didn’t think through clearly enough. This is me saying, “You should never mask again. You would never be done. Everyone’s going to get divorced. You’re going to have these thoughts of suicide.” That’s called projection. You have to be good about being like, “I’m sorry that you felt that way and that you struggled during school.”
I also want to share another story with you. I’ve shared this story before. This didn’t come from a place of this person wanting to do harm to me. It came from projection of their own experience and making it such that they thought I should be warned this is going to be my experience because it was theirs. They told me on my last week of clinical that I’m going to be miserable as a CRNA and that I’m going to hate my life for the first six months. I went home in tears. I was like, “Do you know how hard I have worked to get here? I graduate next week.” I felt like she punched me in the stomach. I was like, “Whoa.” She twisted it on the way in.
That was harsh to hear. It got me in a negative mind space until I was like, “Dang you. That’s not going to be my experience. How dare you project your own onto me? I’m going to love being a CRNA. I’m going to be happy. I’m going to join my open-heart team and I’m going to enjoy my life.” That’s what I did. I joined an open-heart team. I didn’t say the first six months were not miserable. I will say it was stressful the first few months being on my own. I was like, “I’m on my own.” Honestly, I thought it was rewarding and fun because I knew I had earned it. I equally knew I had worked hard to get where I was.
I never felt alone. I always had resources. It was one of those things I always reminded myself, “It’s okay. You have resources. You have coworkers you can ask questions. You have attendings you can call in the room. It’s going to be okay.” I call my coworkers in the room, whoever I’m calling in the room. You’re not alone. You’re never alone. You have your surgeons. You have your circulator.
With this statement trying to project something as serious as suicide onto someone else, it’s very detrimental. I don’t know where this is coming from. I sure hope this is not on a big scale. This is toxic. You need to recognize that and be careful with how you proceed. Like the whole marriage thing, you need to address where you stand mentally before you head to school. I’m not going to sugarcoat it and say that I was magically, blissfully, all butterflies and rainbows mentally during CRNA school. It was very challenging.
I’m also someone who struggles with anxiety. I wouldn’t say I ever had depression, except I did deal with postpartum depression pretty significantly with our last one anyways. It was one of those things where I recognized it. I’m like, “I don’t feel like myself.” I knew something was wrong. I was like, “I don’t usually feel this way.” I got help. I got therapy and medication. You have to acknowledge your feelings.
I know I’ve gone on the show and I’ve said this before. The reason this stuff festers and can get dangerous and scary is that it doesn’t get addressed. You are afraid, embarrassed, insecure, or don’t feel like you have someone to turn to and talk to this. Identify that person. Before you start school, identify what you would do on your worst day.
If you had one of the worst days you could possibly have in CRNA school, what would that look like and what would you do? Come up with a plan. I know I’d snuggle my dogs. The best thing is to stick my face right in their neck and snuggle my dogs. They lick me, smack me with their tail, knock me over, and then I laugh. Get muzzled by your dogs. If I’m having a bad day, that’s what I do. I give my kids a hug. When I have bad days and I’m choked up or emotional, I tell my kids to come and give me a hug. That’s how I feel better. It’s by getting a hug from my kids, talking to my spouse, and calling my mom. I still call my mom. I’m always going to be her little girl.
Have a plan of who you feel comfortable reaching out to on your worst day because that’s what you need. You need to have a game plan. If you start finding yourself struggling and having thoughts that are not like you, you have to reach out, not just to your mom, your husband, or anyone. Professionally get therapy. Go see your doctor. Get on an antidepressant. Take an anti-anxiety medication.On your worst day, feel comfortable reaching out to other people. Click To Tweet
I dealt a lot with insomnia and anxiety in CRNA school. It did feel like a constant struggle where I had to try to keep that in check. It never felt like it got better until after school. I did take drugs and I did try all kinds of things. To be honest with you, even after CRNA school, I still had issues with that stuff. I still had to figure it out.
I’m in my mid-30s. I’m at the point in my life where I’d say my anxiety is, for the most part, very under control. With insomnia, it is the same thing. I don’t know if it’s hormonal. Maybe it’s hormonal. You have kids and then your body switches. All of a sudden, you can sleep. You’re like, “Wow.” It may also be that I’m so sleep-deprived that when I sleep, I pass out. I don’t know.
With all that being said, your life is going to be like this. If you’re on the show, I’m doing a roller coaster ride. You’re going to go through ups and downs. You have to make sure when you’re in your lowest points or peaks and troughs of your life that you have a game plan and that you can recognize when you’re feeling not like yourself. Get the appropriate help. Never be shameful or fearful of that because everyone will experience this. You are not alone. You will never be alone.
I’ll never forget this because I confided in someone who works for CRNA School Prep Academy. She’s amazing. She’s been with us from day one. She’s my coworker. I’m her boss and I confided in her that I didn’t feel like myself. I shared with her that I felt like I was dealing with this. She was like, “I did, too.” We then started having these conversations.
She’s a mom and I’m a mom. It was so comforting and reassuring that I was right. I was like, “Something is wrong. I need to address this.” Don’t be afraid to confide in people that are around you because you may be surprised. They may have equally struggled with things like that. They can be a great support. That’s what I want to leave you with on this episode. I hope to see you in the next episode. Cheers to your future. I’m rooting for you. Until next time.
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