ICU Travel Nursing Prior To CRNA School Cover Photo

There are no limitations to what you can do to set yourself up for CRNA school. All you need is a plan and the commitment to put in the hard work. In this episode, Jenny Finnell and SRNA Anna will talk you through the ICU experience you need to get you that edge when applying for CRNA school. Anna talks about her journey as a surgical burn technician and a CNA working through nursing school, to getting into ICU as a new grad and being an ICU travel nurse. She also shares insights on how to secure letters of recommendation and how early research can help you map out your future as a CRNA.

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ICU Travel Nursing Prior To CRNA School With SRNA Anna

In this episode, we have a special guest, Anna, who is an SRNA. Welcome, Anna. Anna also happens to be a previous CSPA student, which I’m excited about. We’ll briefly touch on the story of her CRNA journey. We’re going to talk about ICU travel nursing because a lot of anesthesia hopefuls are embarking on travel nursing, and maybe some of you were questioning whether you should pull the trigger and do it while the money’s still good.

I am a big proponent of go get the money because why not? If you can get the money and pay for CRNA school, more power to you. A lot of you are maybe like, “What if I don’t get references? What if I don’t get high acuity assignments?” We’re going to break it all down in this episode. Thank you so much, Anna, for joining us. If you wouldn’t mind, please share a little bit more about your background and nursing story.

I’m so excited to be here. It’s fun to meet you in person after being in the Facebook groups these past couple of years. It was super fun. I went to nursing school in Colorado. I graduated in May of 2019. I was working through school at that point. I had been a surgical burn technician and a CNA working full-time through nursing school. That helped me get a job in ICU as a new grad. I started at Johns Hopkins in their cardiac surgery ICU, the CVICU. I was not planning on becoming a travel nurse. I knew I wanted to apply to CRNA school, but I was planning to be a staff nurse until I applied at my two-year mark.

I was going to try to follow that cutter trajectory. As we all know, life doesn’t ever pop out, even for us planners. A lot of CRNAs, SRNAs, and anesthesia hopefuls are planners. COVID came up, and it changed the game a little bit. I ended up traveling right at my one-year mark and have traveled for the last few years now. I’ve been traveling since September of 2020, and I’d love to dive in and talk about my experience with applying to CRNA school, travel nursing to different states and all of that stuff getting into it.

I love the fact that you mentioned you started off as a CNA on a burn ICU unit. That’s huge. I mention this a lot, but I want to make sure I’m repeating it because there’s a great way to get your foot in the door and getting right into an ICU position. I also love the fact that you mentioned that you had a year of ICU experience prior to traveling. We’ll get into it more. For people who struggle getting high acuity ICU assignments, this could be why. It’s because they don’t have a strong ICU background going into travel ICU nursing. Thank you for sharing that. You always knew CRNA, but you didn’t know ICU nursing. Pay is a big thing, but was there anything else other than the money factor that led you to that path?

I was a surgical technician in Denver, Colorado, working with burn victims. We were the ones in the tub room doing the surgical dressing changes. I was opening and debriding wounds or removing sutures, plate stitches, all of this stuff. I was hands-on, and I loved putting people back together like it was a puzzle. I worked closely with the burn surgeons in the burn ICU. After establishing a relationship with some burn surgeons, I ask to shadow in the ORs as a nursing student. I was fortunate to have the opportunity to shadow physician anesthesiologists, AAs, and CRNAs while I was still in nursing school.


Why I Want To Become A CRNA

One of the experiences that I had in one of the OB rooms was what solidified it for me that I knew that I wanted to do anesthesia. There was a laboring mom. It was supposed to be a vaginal delivery and ended up being an emergent C-section where we ran back to the OR. Everything was moving very quickly. I didn’t have the concept or the education to understand what was going on.

What I saw was the CRNA holding the hand of that mom, calming everyone down, setting the tone for the room while setting up all of these buttons, and making sure that everything was organized. He is over here, calming and setting rock for the person who was in labor while doing all of this stuff that I didn’t understand. I saw that birth go so well. I saw the relationship that the CRNA had with that mom. That was when I was like, “This is what I want to do.”

I set myself up so that this is exactly where I can be. After doing a little bit more digging around, I found out that it would be not the only good experience but a good experience to be in a high-volume surgical ICU. I transitioned to the CVICU as a CNA for the last six months to get my foot in that door as a new graduate nurse. I decided anesthesia before I graduated from nursing school. I was lucky to have that exposure early on.

I love the fact that you had a story to tell because a lot of times in interviews, for example, they’ll ask you why CRNA. If you don’t have this, don’t feel bad about yourself because I did not have that thing either, and I still got in. It is powerful to share an experience like that because it allows them to know that you can see yourself in that role, that you can see yourself being that rock for that patient, and that you can see yourself being the calm because we do set the tone of the room. They always look to anesthesia to see, “Is it okay?”

Even if it’s not okay, you say, “This is what’s going on, and this is what I need to happen. Let’s get it done.” You have to take charge but also maintain the fact that if you freak everyone else out, they’re also going to not able to fulfill the demands of the high pace that’s getting ready to unfold and all the tasks that need to be done. When you’re leading a code in the ICU, you need someone who’s going to be keeping track of when the epi was last given and someone delegating and saying, “You do this. You need a break. Let’s switch up roles,” and keeping organized and on track as CRNA does a lot of that in the OR. The fact that you got exposed to that as a nursing student is cool.

It’s “nursey” to me, the medication and the tone setting. All of that is so hands-on in the way that nursing is. I’m excited to transition into that new role; it’s more of an extension of what I’ve already been doing, but with a whole bunch at a new level with a lot of different skills.

The highest-paying contract is not necessarily the one that will give you the best experiences or the letters of recommendation you need to apply to CRNA school. Click To Tweet

A lot of people downplay it like, “The term nursery, I don’t even like that because I feel like it’s derogatory sometimes,” but it’s very impactful. The fact that we come into anesthesia with nursey experience, whatever you want to call it, is a huge strength because we have that connection, empathy, rapport, and like, “I’ve been at your side holding your hand through the blood, sweat, and tears. I will be here for you. Now that I’m your anesthesia provider, I can do all these other cool things too. I can stabilize you, no questions asked. I got you. I’m going to be right here for you. I don’t need to wait for an order. I know what you need. I will get it done.”

It’s an empowering place to be as a nurse because now you can provide better for your patient. I love that. That’s great. I love that you brought that up. You’ve worked in the CVICU and were there for about a year. When COVID hit, is that when you decided like, “I need to embark on this travel nursing?” Were you fearful of hindering your ability to become a CRNA?


Relationship Building is Key

I was fortunate early on to reach out and create some strong relationships who are still my mentors. There was one of my former preceptors. She was a senior acute care nurse practitioner student at the time at Hopkins. We started getting on track to have meetings. I could run anything by them that I was thinking or concerned about. With COVID, there was a variety of situations. I will be respectful and honest about what was happening because it was happening everywhere in the country.

We were short-staffed. We didn’t have supplies. We had pay cuts and were taking staffing assignments that were unsafe. I had a moment where I had four ICU patients at a very large academic medical center as a nurse with eight months of experience. At the end of that shift, I sat down and was a little bit shell-shocked. I opened up my computer and saw that there were jobs paying seven times as much to do the same thing. I was like, “If I’m going to be working without resources, understaffed, and without PPE, I might as well be paying off some of my debt.”

I had that heavy conversation with my mentors to talk about like, “Is this going to impede my future goals? Is this going to be a good move? Is this an investment in my future? Is this something that’s going to hinder me?” This is where it’s going to be so individualized, and it depends on your previous ICU experience before you get into it. That, for me, was the right decision to go ahead and start travel nursing because I had a solid but brief foundation and education at this hospital. I had been trained to take heart and lung transplant patients, VV, and VA ECMO.

I had been trained on every device. I was paired and admitted hearts regularly every day before COVID happened. Do you have to have that cookie-cutter experience to succeed and thrive in CRNA school? No. Was it a decision that I felt comfortable to go and start traveling to take COVID patients exclusively? Yes. It was the right decision for me. The main key consideration moving forward was, “How am I going to get my letters of recommendation?” which is the next topic.

We mentor over 2,000 people every single year in CRNA School Prep Academy. A lot of our students are travel nurses and ICU nurses. There was only one time that I’ve seen a nurse struggle. It’s funny. He’s got into school now, but he was struggling because he took a travel assignment as a brand new, fresh grad. He was making a ton of money, but he was getting these very low high acuity assignments. He approached me and was like, “Jenny, this is probably not going to be okay, but I want your opinion.” I’m like, “You should trust your gut on that one if it’s not okay.”

Needless to say, he was like, “All right.” He gave up some money. He was still very well paid in the ICU travel nurse position that was a higher acuity. He got the experience he needed and got into school, but that would have held him back. He was not seeing ventilators. He was seeing little ICU drips, so it wasn’t going to be the best. I encourage you can do it, but you have to be selective on what assignments you take.

I’ll add that the choice and the assignments you are going to take, you should have time to coincide with your application cycle. It would be in your benefit and in your best interest to apply somewhere while you are at another high acuity, large academic medical center. For example, I started traveling in September of 2020. I went to work on the LA crisis from September through January 2021. I was in a crisis COVID hot zone. It was not an academic medical center. It was a COVID hotspot.

We were short-staffed and did not have a lot of resources. It was very bad, but it was still an incredibly high acuity. I knew I was applying to CRNA school in the next cycle, so I decided to come back to Maryland, where my husband was in grad school. This is where it gets into the letters of recommendation. I chose to take another cardiac surgery ICU travel assignment at the University of Maryland. I planned to stay there for eight months. I had a plan going into it that I was going to start in January.

I love the patient population. I was happy to be there. I would be happy to take on students, mentor, and precept, and, “I’m applying to grad school. Will you write my letter of recommendation?” That’s what I did, and it worked. I was there for about eight months. I had been able to create a relationship with the charge nurses, established a rapport, was a good employee, didn’t call out, was on time, and did good patient care. When they asked me to extend, I was able to not negotiate per se but ask for my letters of recommendation as almost a condition of my extension. I was very upfront and clear that I was applying to grad school, “Will you write my letters of recommendation? I’m happy to stay.” That worked out really well for me.

You’re telling me that when you took that position back in Maryland, did you tell the travel agency? Who did you share with that that was your plan?

A nurse giving a patient a shot
Travel Nurse: No two schools are the same. Some like to see letters of recommendation from former professors, and some really like the managers.

No one.

You knew that was your plan, but you didn’t share it with anyone. You knew when they offered you the extension, you would, at that point, bring it up. They were like, “We want to keep her. We like her. She’s done a good job, but she wants this.” You’re a negotiator. I like that.

A lot of travel contracts, like the crisis ones, are four weeks. I know you know this, Jenny, but for the audience, a lot of people will sometimes take a very short crisis assignment for four weeks. You barely even know the charge nurses at that point. The average standard travel contract is thirteen weeks, so I timed it, knowing that I was going to apply.

June 1st was when all of my applications opened. I worked from January through April 2021. When they asked me to extend, I was like, “This is perfect. I would be happy to do audits and be a preceptor. Will you write my letters of recommendation?” That worked out well, and I did. I’m attending a program that my manager from that travel assignment wrote a letter of recommendation for.

This is my next question. How did you know when they were going to offer the extension on that contract? Maybe you didn’t, where you were like, “Hopefully, they will.” What if they won’t need you anymore?

The staff nursing market is incredibly short. I’ve never not had a contract extension offered, even if they’re trying to cut back on budgets. Even within the ICUs, being device-trained is a skill deficit. If they can hold on to a nurse who can take CVVH or ECMO, even if they don’t like to give those devices to travelers, that’s more likely to keep you at an assignment. I was fairly positive that they were going to offer the extension, and they did. We’re also nationwide short.

We have a massive deficit of travel nurses who have more than two years of experience and have been trained to admit fresh hearts and admit fresh surgical cases. It was a gamble, but it panned out well. I also had backup plans that, speaking of other letters of recommendation, I knew that I wanted to apply to CRNA school from the time I graduated from nursing school. I maintained relationships with two of my professors, sending them updates about how I was doing as a new staff nurse. We then talked about COVID and travel nursing.

I maintained relationships professionally with them. I’m going to give a lecture at my alma mater, which I’m excited about. I knew that it would be in my benefit as well to maintain relationships with former professors because no two schools are the same. Some like to see letters of recommendation from former professors. Some like the managers. For 5 schools, I used 8 people to be my references, so I didn’t have people have to fill out every single one of them every time. I alternate between them.

Those are amazing tips. I hope you guys are taking notes because I love the fact that you kept in touch with your professors. That’s an issue that, luckily, I had applied. I had only been at school for less than two years. I naturally gravitated toward one of my last preceptors. She was a clinical instructor. We hit it off. I shared with her that I wanted to apply to CRNA so I could easily go to her and ask for her reference. I didn’t plan it that way. It just happened. I liked her. She got me into the CVICU for my ICU nursing school rotation.

It helped me get my foot in the door, but not everyone has that or even pre-planned for that. Think ahead. Research your schools early and often, people. You have to know that first and foremost before you make steps ahead. I also love that we brought it back around to the fact that you have sought ICU experience prior to traveling. You had a lot of extensive training, ECMO, and CRRT. That added value to your contract. Even though it was a gamble, that was a pretty good gamble. You knew the odds were in your favor to get an extension because of the value brought to that unit.

You also went into that contract knowing that you were going to build that relationship with that charge nurse so they would want to keep you around. All of these are amazing things to think about as early as possible. If you don’t have strong ICU experience, it’s okay. It’s still possible. Trust me. Many of our students have been able to still go on to become a CRNA, get references, and go on to CRNA school. It does mean that it may not be as smooth, or maybe you’ll run into some bumps. Maybe you won’t be able to get high acuity assignments, or your contracts won’t get extended, etc. It’s having that good foundation.

I also like to point this out too because some of the students I know have utilized this where they keep a home base, meaning they get a 6 or 8-month experience. They go off to travel, but they keep that home base as contingent or PRN, moonlight, whatever you want to call it. They go back in between assignments and work a few shifts to keep that current manager status open with someone they’ve had a long relationship with.

Set yourself up for success. If your program requires you to work in the ICU until you start CRNA school, that's a good thing to know ahead of time. Click To Tweet


Which Travel Assignments Are Best For CRNA?

That’s another great way to do it. It’s keeping that original staff manager. I’ll also add a little bit of delving into which travel assignments you take before applying; the highest paying contract is not necessarily the contract that is going to give you the best experiences or the letters of recommendation you need to apply to CRNA school. A lot of times, the highest paying contract is the shortest staffed in a staffing crisis area. Those are typically not patients who are necessarily the highest acuity barring COVID. A COVID hot zone changes that.

In normal times, if you’ve got a contract that’s paying $6,000 a week and it’s in Kansas or Missouri, and it’s not a large academic medical center, it doesn’t have to be a Level 1 trauma. I made a video about this before. You don’t have to work at a Level 1 trauma to get into CRNA school to apply. You want to work somewhere that is taking high acuity consistently. A lot of times, the high-paying contracts are because they have no staff.

If they have no staff, that doesn’t necessarily guarantee that you’re taking high acuity assignments. It means that they’re super short-staffed. You might take 1 or 2 of those contracts to make cash. After you finish your interviews and get in, take whatever contracts you want. I would recommend taking your high acuity in a larger name hospital contract at the time that you’re applying to CRNA school.

I love the fact that you said that. I don’t think you should leave the ICU. I think you should stay in the ICU. A lot of schools have some contract that you have to sign that you are staying full-time in the ICU. It doesn’t mean to stay full-time up until the day you start your program. Someone’s like, “I have so much work up until the day before.” No. If you want to take a month or two off, that’s not what that means. It means don’t gain acceptance and lead in the work in PACU. They want you to stay in ICU, especially if you have very minimal ICU experience, and they still accept you.

We had a student who applied to CRNA school. He had his ICU experience for 2 or 3 years. He has a long time of ICU experience, then moved to the cath lab right at the time of applying to CRNA school. That came back to bite him in the butt because they’re like, “Why did you leave the ICU?” He had explained that, and they were like, “Your acceptance is contingent on you going back to the ICU.” He had six weeks to do this, so it’s not a lot of time. It’s because he stayed contingent. He was like, “Let me back.”

He technically was able to get back and full-time pretty easily there, but some schools are very particular on that. Some are not. Without knowing, it’s always best to err on the side of, “Let’s remain in ICU.” Unless you ask, say, “I’m burnt out. Do I have enough ICU experience if I leave the ICU up until I start school?” They may say yes or no. If you’re burnt out and want to leave, I get it. I feel for you. I want to give you big hugs. By the same token, I don’t want to jeopardize your future so make sure you’re asking prior to just jumping ship.

I had a friend who was a program director whom I know and interviewed. They had lots of ICU experience and years more than me. At the time of the interview, we were not in ICU. The program director straight up was like, “We have almost three times the number of applicants out of any other season. Tell me why you’re the only one not currently working in the ICU.” That cut and dry.

They ended up saying like, “You would be a great candidate. We want you to go back to ICU.” She was like, “All right.” Set yourself up for success. If your program requires you to work in the ICU until you start CRNA school, that’s a good thing to know. I would maybe personally wait until after acceptance to maybe even find out that detail. Maybe they have all that information.

I will wait until acceptance. If you gained acceptance, that would be the time to say, “I’m burnt out. I would love to move to PACU or even operating room PACU or cath lab, whatever it is. Is it okay for me to do that?” Put it as if you were asking permission, to get their thoughts that you value what they have to say, and they’re going to say yes or no. If they say no, you’re saying, “Thank you so much. I appreciate your feedback. I will stay in the ICU. No problem.”

Some of these schools will say, “If you have ICU experience within the last 2 to 3 years, you can apply to our program.” That’s huge. That’s one of those big windows. It’s open to interpretation. With the volume of applicants and the quality they get, they don’t have to accept those students. They have all these applicants who are currently in the ICU. Why do they have to accept a student who is two years out of their ICU experience? Even if you’re an amazing applicant, otherwise, they have other amazing applicants to pick from that are currently in the ICU. Think about that.

It doesn’t mean that you are any less of a good ICU nurse if you’re not currently working there, but why not stack the deck in your favor?

At the end of the day, the way the dice roll, these schools ultimately have the final say. I’ve been told so many times over with these programs that they have way more qualified applicants, and they can accept them. It’s just the way it is. It’s extremely competitive. They don’t have to make exceptions. They don’t have to accept Cs. They don’t have to accept whatever it was. There was one of the program directors who was my program director.

A nurse looking up information on a computer
Travel Nurse: The choice in the assignments you will take should be timed to coincide with your application cycle. It would be in your benefit and best interest to apply somewhere while you are at another high acuity, large academic medical center.

He’s like, “I’ve heard every excuse in the book.” I get it. After a period of time, he becomes like, “I don’t want to hear excuses. It is what it is. We can’t change that, so let’s move forward from it. The reality is I can be choosy because I have more than enough applicants. I don’t have to accept a student who has a previous C in any subject. I just don’t have to. I have plenty of other candidates.” It’s just rules or the door. It might not be fair, but you can’t change that.

Students do that, especially nowadays, with it being the last application cycle. You probably even know better than I do. This is your bread and butter, but I know this last application cycle was way more applicants than any previous cycle.

It’s funny, back when I launched this show, it was February of 2020. Weeks after I launched, they were like, “Pandemic.” I was like, “What is going on?” I didn’t know it was going to happen. I remember trying to guide my students. I don’t know what to expect for CRNA school applications. The virtual interviews were all new too. I anticipated less applicants because I thought people would be way distracted and busy trying to survive.

What ended up happening was they saw record numbers of applications, and that has not stopped. These schools are still seeing record numbers of applications. Even with travelers, they would see a decrease in applicants. No, they’re still seeing record numbers. I was wrong the first time I predicted, so I’d like to think that I really don’t know what’s going to be the future of applications. All I can say is more and more people are looking to leave the bedside. They’re burnout.

I think that I can predict it then be wrong. It will continue to uptrend, especially anyone who’s experienced COVID nursing knows how rough it is. There’s a certain element that no amount of money is worth this, which is not the only reason you do anesthesia. A lot of people are looking for a change. They’re like, “We’ve worked a couple of COVID surges. If there’s something that utilizes my skillset and feels like I’m contributing, being helpful, don’t have to run out of propofol, and don’t have to wear a trash bag to work, sign me up.” There are a lot of people who are coming from that perspective.

It’s the satisfaction that you get with this career path. As you said, you get to be that rock and be that calming voice. It’s so rewarding. I love the connection it makes with my patient. Yes, they’re asleep the whole time, but when I’m there, and I can help calm that anxiety before they head back, I’m the last person they see when they drift off to sleep.

They can’t see my face, but I’m giving that warm smile and that reassurance. I take care of kids now. I love snuggling on my babies. I love rubbing their head. I love singing to them. It’s so rewarding to me to be that caring, compassionate person that says, “You’re going to be okay. You’re safe. I’m going to take care of you.” It’s fun and rewarding. I don’t think I got that when I was in bedside nursing.

It’s hard because you rarely see people get better now more than ever. My grandfather had a heart transplant and lived with me when I was little. As an ICU nurse, it makes sense. I remember I was twelve. I remember when we went to visit him in ICU. He was pink again. He had been great. That’s how my little mind describes it. I was like, “He’s pink. He’s not gray.”

In nursing, we so rarely now get those wins of getting to give dignity and make people better. What’s so hard for people is not getting to see people get better and go home and improve because we’ve had a pandemic. Anesthesia is awesome because a lot of the time, you go in, and they do surgery, and then they are better. It’s not always, but a lot of times, they are. They’re happy to see you because you are alleviating pain.

It is more rewarding. Patients are usually way more appreciative of what you can do for them. When someone wakes up and says, “When am I returning from my surgery?” you could say, “You’re already done.” That’s one of the best compliments you can get from your patient. They’re like, “I already had surgery?” I’m like, “Yeah.” That’s fun. Thank you, Anna, for this. I hope you guys found this eye-opening and insightful. Here’s the last question I was going to ask you: Do you have any regrets about your ICU travel nursing time? I know you probably haven’t gotten super deep with how stressful and life-altering it was. Would you say you had any regrets if you had to do it again?

I regret working overtime and not spending time going outside. I regret not investing time into building hobbies that are separate from work. Most of us have student loans. There’s a point where you’re pouring money in with the spigot. Even if it’s travel nurse money, you’re about to take out loans again to go to CRNA school. Does it really matter if you’re going to work 60 hours a week and you’re going to be miserable, or you’re going to work 36, take one day at PTO, and then go to see Lake Tahoe? Life is more. We were not guaranteed. A couple of years from now, who knows?

Do not work 60-hour contracts for a full year like I do and did. Treat yourself like you are a priority as far as sleeping seven hours a night, eating nourishing foods for your body, going outside, investing time in your friends, and in other hobbies that are not work-related. I’m grateful that I had the experiences that I had. I’ll say this here. I made $240,000 in 2021 as a bedside nurse, which is awesome. I was able to work that much. I was working way too much, and it was not good for my health.

One of those common-sense things we don't apply to ourselves as nurses is giving everything and all of ourselves to everyone but ourselves. Click To Tweet


Prioritize Your Well-Being

If I could go back and do it again, I would not work 60-hour contracts. I would take breaks and time off in between them. I would invest in my own physical health as well. All my mentees came up behind me and said, “I’m always going to work overtime.” I’m like, “No.” You can also learn a lot very quickly by strategically picking up overtime in specialties that are different from your own, like MICU and neuro. It’s more important that you be a whole person than it is for your work 1.5 jobs for a year.

To be honest with you, I see this happen a lot in anesthesia too. I frequently see it, and I did it for not that long because I got pregnant. Let’s face it. Once I got pregnant, I was like, “I’m done. You’ll barely ever see me.” It’s funny for me, but it took that little flip like, “I have a baby now. Where are my priorities? Where do I want my time to be spent?” I was like you. No money in the world can replace the time that I have. Do I care if I spend extra three years paying off my debt? No, I don’t care. It’s not affecting my lifestyle.

I can still shop on Amazon like there’s no tomorrow and go on nice vacations. I’ll have a student debt loan for an extra 2 or 3 years. Who cares? It’s okay. Would it have been worth it to work less and still have $40,000 of extra debt? Sure, who cares? People are always like, “I don’t want to go to grad school and take all this debt.” I’m not saying be irresponsible. Don’t interpret that. It’s one of those things where you don’t let it hinder you from enjoying your life. I’m not saying go splurge and go crazy, but don’t waste all your waking hours working to realize then three years have passed by and you have neglected yourself, loved ones, and family.

I see CRNAs do this. I see new grads come out. I hate to say this too, because I’m always talking about my own profession, but you can find environments that are not like this because I have experienced both. Sometimes the culture around anesthesia being a CRNA is work and work. It’s more like, “Do more, pick up 24-hour shifts, and do a 16 to 24 and 2/8. Make it rake in the dough.” I have seen CRNAs do that.

Sometimes the culture can essentially breed that. What I can say is when I made the decision, I was on the 24-hour call team. I did sixteen-hour shifts. Once we had a baby, I was like, “No.” It was one of those things where I’m like, “If you want me on your open-heart team, I would love to stay, but this is what I need. I need an eight-hour shift and be home with my baby. Take it or leave it.” They made the exception for me because they didn’t want to lose me. I was like, “Sweet.” You have to speak up for yourself.

Here’s one helpful thing I learned over the last couple of months in therapy. It’s one of those common-sense things that we don’t apply to ourselves. As nurses, we give to everyone but ourselves. She was like, “Do you love planners in your Google calendar?” She’s like, “You have to sleep 7 hours, eat 3 meals, go outside, and move your body. If you can’t do those four things, you have to say no to things. You have to say no to working overtime. You have to say no to even helping other people sometimes. This is for you too because you are not only working but also running a business and helping other people.”

Sometimes you have to say no because you are not meeting your physical needs. Setting boundaries is something that I wish that I had done earlier. I’m now grateful going into CRNA school that I’m like, “I have my schedule. We’re going to walk outside. We’re going to sit outside and eat lunch, and I’m going to sleep for seven hours. I’m not going to be pushing myself to work past the point where it makes sense to do so.” I may be officially retired. I just crunched the numbers. I’m still working a little bit because the six months are online. I ran some numbers, and I may be able to retire efficiently.

There’s something besides focusing all on school. It can make your life so much less stressful. I worked for eight weeks into my schooling. I was in an integrated program. It was a Master’s. There was no DNP project, so I felt it.

It was very heavy immediately.

I was only working a 1/8-hour shift. It was barely putting a dent in our finances. I was at $22 an hour, so I’m like, “Bye.”

“Why am I so stressed out so I can make a couple of hundred dollars?”

You shared so much wisdom. I haven’t even gotten to it until this point. It’s funny that you mentioned the fact that I do juggle a lot. If I’m being perfectly honest, I have thought about quitting multiple times what I’m doing because I have gotten to the point of burning the candle at both ends where I’m giving, and I have nothing left. I’m just toast. It made me somewhat bitter about what I was doing. I’m like, “I don’t like being here.”

A nurse looking at a computer
Travel Nurse: You have to sleep seven hours, eat three meals, go outside, and move your body. If you can’t do those four things, you have to say no to things like working overtime. You have to say no to even helping other people sometimes.

I don’t like feeling like I don’t like what I’m doing because it’s making me feel icky. It shouldn’t be that way. I had to get help. I got a therapist for a while. You’re right. You have to set boundaries. Sometimes you have to say no. You can’t always help everyone. Sometimes it’s okay not to answer this text message at night because it’s my family time. I don’t need to be on my team all the time.

Any reasonable person would not expect you to review their resume at 10:30 PM on a Saturday.

I don’t even blame anyone for doing it because people are naturally like, “I want to find help.”

Never expect that of someone else. There’s a time to do it, like on Mondays.

Do it during business hours. When I made that change, that shifted my business and started sending boundaries with who, what, when I would be available, and how I spent my time and growing a team to do a lot for me. I’m one person.

That’s another thing you should do. It is asking for help. Sometimes you do everything yourself, but it turns out you can’t do everything yourself. That gets into social media. I taught myself how to edit YouTube videos. I was spending eight hours per video, and I was like, “Is this the best utilization of my time? If I pay someone else to do this for me, they’re going to do it way faster and better than me.” Learning how to let other people help you is also hard but so important to do and in other aspects of life too.

You’re going to use that in CRNA school, too, because at some point, you’re going to have to say, “I can’t grocery shop because I can’t meal plan because I don’t have time. Honey, here’s the list.”

I’m not in the OR, but I imagine it’s the same way. Sometimes, I can’t tilt the table this way. Sometimes you need to ask somebody to help you out.

This is all great knowledge. Thank you for sharing your time, insight, and wisdom. I appreciate you, Anna. Thank you very much.

It’s so fun. I can’t recommend Jenny’s services enough. They were so helpful to me as I was applying to CRNA school. I recommend them to everybody who’s applying. If you’re on the show, you already know how great she is, and her services are. I’ll also plug Chrissy. She and I are doing a new grad membership course for new students. Check us out over on ConfidentCareAcademy.com. Thanks for having me. I love to be here.

I’m glad you brought that up because you guys are getting ready to embark upon mentoring ICU nurses so they can essentially hit the ground running, feel more confident, and be better able to adapt.

We’re excited about it. It’s going to cover everything from provider communication to how to give a rapport to the meat and potatoes of respiratory ABGs, cardiac, and all that good stuff. We’re excited about this.

Thank you, Anna. I’m excited. Check out Confident Care Academy. Thank you so very much. I’m excited to watch you grow into a CRNA provider.

Thank you so much for having me. I really enjoyed it.

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