Can you survive CRNA school with kids? Jon Holmer shares his experience when his wife went to CRNA school. Is it harder on the one who’s in CRNA school or is it harder on the spouse? Jon tells us that it’s all about having an open and honest conversation with your spouse so you know how each of you can better support each other. CRNA school is hard enough as it is. If you do it with kids, it’s honestly never going to be easy. But after all that, the lifestyle you will get will totally be worth all the pain and hardship. Jon and his wife prove to us that it can be done. Tune in and get some real-life lessons from their experience.
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Can You Survive CRNA School With Kids? With Jon Holmer
Is It Harder To Be In CRNA School Or Is It Harder To Be The Spouse?
In this episode, we are going to discuss, Having Kids While You are In CRNA School. That’s the big discussion in this episode. We have a very special guest. Welcome, Jon.
Thanks for having me.
We are happy and grateful to have you. For those of you who are not familiar with Jon Holmer, maybe you are because if you have been a part of the AACN, you might recognize his voice. He doesn’t have his normal gear on, the Elton John look, but you will probably recognize him from his time and involvement with the AACN. Jon has been a CRNA for a few years now. He’s currently practicing in the fantastic paradise of Kokomo, Indiana.
Jon was an ICU nurse for eleven years prior to anesthesia, which is also an awesome topic to maybe dive in a different day. I know a lot of people were like, “I have been out of school for so long,” but for eleven years, he practiced as an ICU nurse. He started off in Southern New Mexico and then Central Illinois as a CVICU nurse. He attended Case Western Reserve in Cleveland, Ohio. He graduated in 2018. After grad school, he worked in Akron, Ohio, at Summa Medical Center, which is in my hometown gaining excellent experience with ERAS, which, if you are not familiar, it’s essentially opioid-sparing techniques.
Therefore, he has a heavy focus and experience in regional anesthesia. Jon has been involved in the national organization through Critical Care Nurses, the AACN, emceeing their annual NTI Conference. He has been emceeing for the last few years, which is why I said you might recognize him and even recognize his voice on the show. He’s also emceed a number of state meetings for the AANA. Jon and his wife Katie have two kids, Kipton and Poppy. They moved a few years ago, so Katie could attend CRNA school in Indiana, which sounds like a challenge on many levels. He’s excited to share his journey and experience with you all in this episode.
The reason why I was like, “I have to get Jon on the show,” is because not only have they survived Jon’s time in CRNA school, but now, the roles are reversed. I’m sure you are probably wondering, which role has been harder: to be in school or to be the spouse of someone in CRNA school, especially with two kids? We are going to save this juicy question for last. Make sure you stick around to the very end to see what Jon has to say about which role he thinks was harder and why that was. Welcome, Jon. Thank you so much for joining us.
It’s a blast. I love chatting with you guys all the time. It’s good to be able to share my knowledge and experience here. My wife’s experience may be a little different than mine, so I will try and speak to that but I’m sure she would not be so happy with me putting words in her mouth.
Thank you for being here. It’s an honor. I know you are busy. We will dive right into the questions. First, I would love to back up a little bit and talk about your CRNA school experience. You didn’t have kids then, is that correct?
CRNA School Application Experience
Not at all. I had done all my undergrad in New Mexico. I worked out there for a few years. I moved to Central Illinois. I worked at Carle, which was a 500-bed hospital. That’s where I found out what CRNAs did. We had a small group in New Mexico but it wasn’t apparent that they were even a thing at that point. It wasn’t until I got to Illinois that I even found out about what CRNAs were. After I saw a number of people going through the ICU and then going on to CRNA school, I was like, “All right.” I was either on an administration track or a CRNA track. Those were the two, and I loved the clinical experience of things.
Being in the CVICU gave me the closest thing that I think to what you can have in the operating room doing open heart recoveries, which was certainly one of my favorite things that we got to do. I worked there for about eight years and, after being in New Mexico for eight years, in CVICU at Carle. I applied a couple of different times to some schools and got waitlisted, and different things like that.
I applied down to Cleveland and got waitlisted out there as well. They had an opening at one point. We found out right after we got married in December that we were going to be moving to Cleveland. That’s essentially what we did. We moved out there. Katie was a surgical, pediatrics, and trauma ICU nurse. We had two ICUs at this place. One was hearts, and the other one was everything else. She did pediatrics, trauma, neuro, and all of that stuff.
She went on to do flight nursing for a number of years. She was a flight nurse when we left Cleveland. When we came out to Cleveland, she was doing travel nursing because that was some of the best money at the time. This was pre-COVID. This was before all that but it was still better money than what you would get working at the bedside. She worked at the Cleveland Clinic. She went up to Detroit. She did a couple of contracts out there.
She worked at Akron Children’s. She has been all over the place in terms of some of the different assignments that she was doing while I was in school. That seemed to work out fairly well. We lived comfortably. It was financially somewhat strained at times but that’s what loans are for. You take on all that stuff and will pay it back eventually. It’s certainly one of those things. You are like, “We are going to dial this together and will figure it out later.”
It’s the best investment if you think about it long-term career-wise. The fact that you increase your earnings by $100,000 for every year that you work. At the end of twenty years, that’s a lot of extra money. $100,000, $200,000 or $300,000 might seem like a lot at the moment but as long as you are smart about your finances, it’s a worthy investment.
A few things you said that I love is the fact that you got waitlisted but I like to highlight this because, from the perspective of a candidate, you were a well-rounded candidate, someone who had a lot of leadership skills and still got waitlisted. I’m sure a lot of people are wondering, “Jon, what were your stats?” I know you told me about your experience but would you mind sharing a little bit more about what your GPA was and things like that?
My GPA was about 3.4 or something like that. I had my CCRN. I’d done that for a number of years. Part of the thing also is that some schools are a little bit more hesitant to take on students that are 35 and older. There are statistics that are involved in terms of your first time taking the NBCRNA that they are a little bit more hesitant with. They want to make sure that you are going to be both academically and clinically prepared for those things. They keep a number of different things in mind and are looking at that stuff.
A number of schools are now even moving away from the GRE because they are realizing that the emotional intelligence piece of things is a much better predictor for how people are going to do in school than some of these academic statistics. You can teach anesthesia to by anybody but it’s all of these other pieces getting you through school and those are the types of things that a lot of schools are starting to recognize now.
My grades were not stellar. I was on the cusp of that stuff. For one of the schools, I had to retake Chemistry and show that I was going to be a valuable candidate at that point. Some of these other schools want you to take some of their pre-courses to show that you are invested in that school as well, which is perfectly fine if you want to stick around in that area. There are different things that you can do ahead of time that give you a leg up.
I wanted to point out too because the fact that you are also a speaker, you are very well spoken, so I’m sure your interview skills are awesome but it only goes to show that even a great candidate can still face a waitlist or a rejection, which is essentially what I’m trying to highlight here. You have gone on to have a very successful career and do a lot of different types of anesthetics but yet you were one of those candidates who was put on a waitlist.
I like to share that because it gives people some hope. Some people get so in their own head thinking, “They don’t want me” but that’s just not it. A waitlist is a yes, and even rejection is not a no. I was rejected from CRNA school. It’s not even a waitlist. It was like, “No, thanks, Jenny,” but here I am. It goes to show that you don’t give up on your dreams. As Jon said, there are things you can do to overcome what they may see as your shortcomings.
Different schools are looking for different things as well. One may be very heavily involved in the academic portion of things. They may put a lot of weight onto one of their pre-tests, and another one is going to be much more of a, “Tell us about the support systems that you have and some of the experiences that you have.” They don’t necessarily focus as much on the academic piece. They want to know that you have the experience. They want to know that you are dedicated to that and at a base level for some of this stuff but at the same time, that doesn’t necessarily translate into how well you are going to be able to manage anesthesia school as a whole.
Marriage And CRNA School
Thank you for sharing all that background. Let’s get back into what we were going to discuss now, but as far as being in school, Katie is in school. I’m curious. Would you say, that even the first go around was hard on your marriage or did you feel like going into that, you had a good enough understanding of what the expectation was? How did you guys navigate those waters?
Part of the benefit was that Katie and I were both nurses ahead of time. We both knew what CRNA school entailed. We had had a number of friends that had gone on to do that. We knew the stressors that the environment was going to create in the first place. We had a little bit of a leg up in terms of that. For people who have spouses outside of the healthcare industry, it can be hard to translate the amount of time and effort that something like this is going to take.
Every program is going to have its stressors and different pieces that are going to test things for you but I think having that open conversation ahead of time in terms of understanding how much time this takes, there will never be a down moment. There was always something hanging over your head until you were done with the boards. That is the nature of it. For three years, that’s what it’s going to be.
Understanding that your spouse is going underneath all of that stress and anything that you can do to help alleviate that is going to make things a whole lot easier on them. Different people handle stress differently, obviously. Some people crawl into a hole, and some people gain breaks. I don’t know what you do to handle stress. I hope it’s not alcohol and curling into a ball but if that works for you, so be it. It’s all the same.
Anything you can do to get through CRNA school, that’s what you need to do. Part of it is being able to have those conversations with your spouse in terms of something like that. We had a good understanding ahead of time before we got into what stuff was going to be going on. For people who don’t know, you need to be able to have that conversation. It’s going to be 40, 50 or 60-hour weeks with not much time on the weekends.
That’s the key and my husband at the time was not medical. I had to do a lot of explaining. Now my husband has always been my biggest fan, which I’m so grateful for. Anything I’ve ever said, and I can be crazy sometimes. He’s like, “Sure, Jenny. I will support you.” I’m like, “I don’t know what I’m doing but let’s do it.” It was one of those things where, even though I told him, until we were actually in it, I remember there were several instances during school that I don’t think he quite realized until I had some breakdowns or when I was in tears. I remember getting mad at him.
One of the only fights, not the only one, I remember was when we fought over him asking me to do something. It seems so silly now that I got upset about him asking me, “Jenny, do you want to go do this?” Whether it was a church youth group thing, going out with a friend or whatever it was, he used to ask me to do things all the time on the weekends or whenever. I got so mad at him and said, “No. Stop asking me. I don’t want to have to say no because I want to. Yes, of course, I want to but I can’t. Whatever you ask me is like stabbing a knife in an open wound every time.”
He was like, “Where did that come from?” I was like, “Let’s talk about this.” That was a very eye-opening moment for me in school where I was like, “Maybe I didn’t make that as clear as I should have.” What we started doing was I started looking at my calendar ahead of time and saying, “I can clear space for you here and here but outside of this, do not ask.” That worked well for us. That was helpful but again, he didn’t know. Incredibly supportive nonetheless. Our marriage was completely fine afterward. We went on to have three kids, and you guys went on to have kids too, and you are still married.
That’s number one but you have to understand like Jon also said, how do people handle stress? You know your spouse well. At least, I would hope that you would know your spouse well enough to know how they handle stress. Are they very vocal? Do they lock up? Do they shut down? That’s also key. For me, I tend to lock up. I have two methods.
I either get quiet and hold it in, and then I cry or word vomit all my stress out and stress another person out beyond belief. Those are my two things. Depending on how I react, my husband knows where I’m at. He even said it to me because he is like, “Jenny, I could see it in your eyes. I can see it. I can tell when you are zoned out or stressed out.”
He tries to snap me out of it. It’s paying attention to those subtle clues in your significant other, and that’s not even going for when you are in school. It’s going for me to pay attention to my own spouse in CRNA school. I remember my word vomit days where I would lay into him like, “This is all I have in my mind.” I could tell he was tense. He handles stress well but he internalizes it so much to where he breaks himself apart inside. I had to be careful that I recognized that when I knew to be like, “Maybe he’s had too much.”
I call my girlfriend at that point and lay into her some because we are both at school, and she can understand like, “This is my day.” That’s great advice. Now that your wife is in school, though, you have two little kids. You work full-time. You said in the intro that you moved to be closer to family. Was that a purposeful decision when she chose the CRNA program?
That was. Cleveland was a great spot for CRNAs, in general. They understand CRNAs well. They’ve got great practice, authority, and autonomy, which I enjoyed quite a bit. Coming to Indiana is not necessarily as friendly of a state. This is the land of Stoelting. He was very much against this anesthesia care team model. We have a limited number of CRNAs in the state. They are starting to expand and give us more capabilities within here. It’s underneath resistance.
We are still fighting for a lot of that stuff here at this point but when we were looking at school, part of it was trying to figure out something that was closer to her family because we knew that they would be able to help support us through a lot of this stuff. They still live in Champaign, which is a couple of hours away but it’s not an eight-hour drive anymore. It’s a two-hour drive. If we had something that we needed for a weekend, during the week or something like that, they can come over and help out with the kids.
We’ve had a number of times there where, especially during COVID stuff where you have an exposure. The kids are home for ten days. We called grandma, and grandma came over for a week to come to hang out with them. We are very grateful that we have them, at least in that type of proximity. It would be even nicer if they were a little bit closer but I will take whenever we can get here. This was a great school for us to be able to get into. It was certainly one of those things that now that we are in the midst of it, you manage things as it comes along.
Kids While In CRNA School
Most of the students I’ve talked to that have been through CSPA and who have children all say the same thing. They have family help. Now, maybe it’s not family but maybe it’s a family friend, a brother-in-law, a sister-in-law, an uncle, a cousin or a friend. Someone that is reliable as a second caregiver to your children that you trust can be there when you need it because sometimes you get stuck in clinical. Sometimes you have to leave before you can even put them in daycare. Some daycares don’t even open until 6:00, and you have to be at the hospital at 5:30. What do you do? There are a lot of challenges.
The biggest challenge that we’ve had is that Katie’s clinical at this point is two days a week. She goes four days a week starting her senior year. We have been trying to coordinate how all of that works. We have a nanny who comes over early in the mornings on the days that Katie’s in clinical. She’s in Nashville two days a week and traveling 4 or 4 and a half to 5 hours. She leaves the night before and doesn’t get home until 10:00 or 11:00 the second night. We do have a nanny that comes over those two days. I have to leave at 5:30 to be able to make it to work by 6:30, so I can start up cases.
The biggest challenge is coordinating all of that. Making sure that you have some other pieces in place and having a backup plan. The same nanny is available in the afternoons. If I get posed and stuck in a case where I’m sitting and waiting to get out. Daycare closes at 6:00, so I’ve got to be down there to be able to pick them up in time for that. It shows what your limits are.
This is also an advantage for someone who doesn’t work in healthcare, that doesn’t have to be there at the ass crack of dawn. They can help get the kids to and from school a little bit easier. A more traditional schedule is nice that helps but every situation is going to be a little bit different in terms of how the two of you are going to manage that.
When the kids are sick and it’s like, “What are you going to do?” I never forget when our son, when he was maybe a year and a half, got hand-foot-and-mouth, which when you get that, you get the sores, and you can’t go back until the sores are all dried and crusty. You are like, “Come on.” You are blowing them on. I’m trying to get them to crust up. You are like, “Hurry up. Rub them out.” He got something else where he had a scary fever, and I went to call in. It was 105-plus. It was scary. I thought he was going to have a seizure.
I remember calling in in the morning, and my chief CRNA was like, “If you call in one more time, you are going to be put on disciplinary action.” I was scheduled to do an open-heart case that day and was like, “You know me. I don’t want to be in trouble. This is my career. I’m a good worker but I have a sick child. Are you serious?” My husband could stay home with him, I get it but my husband is not medical and mama bear was like, “My baby might have a seizure. I want to make sure I’m watching like a hawk.” I then was like to my husband, “How’s he doing?” He’s like, “He’s fine. He looked over and was drooling spit everywhere.”
I love my husband but it’s not the same. I went to call in, and they told me that. I went into tears. I remember I cried the whole way into work. I tried to dry my tears with my puffy eyes. I went into the OR, and I’m getting ready. The RT, the Respiratory Therapist, was setting up the A-line. She’s like, “Jenny, you don’t look okay.” I’m like, “You are right. I’m not okay but I’m here. I’m just pissed off but I’m here.” I was really angry at that point. She’s like, “What’s wrong?” I started crying again.
My co-workers came to the rescue. They are like, “Jenny, you shouldn’t be here. Get out of here.” I got to go home. They didn’t put me on disciplinary action. It was one of those pivotal moments of my career that I was like, “This is how a good employee is treated.” I was grateful that my co-workers stepped up for me and were like, “Jenny needs to go home. I would be doing this case.” I got to leave or whatnot but it was a reminder that l being a parent’s hard, and you are right. When a certain family member isn’t in a medical system where you are held to three call-offs in six months it’s different; my husband could honestly miss as much work as he wanted.
He can go in and end whenever he wants. He might make up for it on the weekends but it was flexible work from home kind of job. That does make things easier where healthcare workers have it hard. They are held to a pretty high standard. You have to clock in every single time. My husband rolls in ten minutes late and it’s like, “All right.” I want to share that story. Get through it but it’s hard. You said Katie is traveling a couple of days a week, and you are shuffling all of that. That’s what it looks like now. How often would you say you get to have quality family time? I would love to ask that question.
Time Together As A Family
Katie does a great job in terms of balancing that out. The hardest part of all of this for her is the mom’s guilt that that’s there. It’s very different. Moms feel more responsible. They feel more weight when they are not around kids. I’m making a generalization here. What I want to say is that it’s a normal thing. Men are a little bit different in terms of something like that. When we are going through all of this stuff, and if the roles were reversed, Katie would’ve preferred to be in school before having kids so then she could be working and then have a primary caregiver role for the kids at this point.
However, that’s mostly because she feels the guilt of not being there and not being present most of the time. There are a lot of times that on the weekends it’s straight studying. I’m taking the kids out to try and find something to wear off as much energy as possible, whether that’s the park or the pool or just running around in circles with their heads cut off. Anything you can do is what is going on here. The age of kids as well influences this. When you have young kids, young kids may not remember most of this stuff later on but they are very labor intensive in terms of the stuff that you have to do.
You have to make sure that they are not sticking their head in the oven every ten minutes sort of a thing. As kids get older, they get a little bit more self-sufficient and may remember a little bit more of that but this is going to be a blip in time. After all of that is done, the lifestyle that you can have after this point is absolutely worth it. You have a little bit more flexibility in terms of your schedule and what kind of hours you want to work, and where you want to work.The lifestyle that you can have after CRNA school is absolutely worth it. You have a little bit more flexibility in terms of your schedule, what kind of hours you want to work, and where you want to work. Click To Tweet
There are a lot of different options that happen after you are done. If you can get through three years of something like this, you will be set. The hardest part is trying to coordinate all of that. The previous semesters when it was very heavy in terms of exams, it was every other weekend that she had to study and that she was going to be doing a test, a paper or something.
As the program progresses, that requirement dissipates a little bit more. There are more papers. The DNP project consumes a significant amount of time but that exam piece of things that you are hammering down, trying to make sure that you are ready for those takes up a significant amount of time too and adds a lot of stress during those times. We probably have at least two weekends a month when we are able to spend some really good quality time with family.
Part of that too is balancing. It’s like, “Why don’t you wake up and get some studying done up until noon? I will manage them until that point. After naps, we will go do something as a family.” You have a little bit more. If you break it up like that, it’s a little bit better. The hard part for Katie is that her study mates and friends don’t have kids. It’s not that they don’t have other things that they are doing but they don’t have kids.
It’s a little different for her when they are able to take an entire weekend doing some of the stuff that she wasn’t doing. She feels guilty on both ends. She’s like, “I feel guilty for not being with my family, and I also feel guilty that I haven’t gotten through 150 slides of cardiac here over the weekend.” You are pulled in a lot of different directions that way. Anything you can do to help alleviate some of that is what you manage.
Let’s stress the fact that perfection is not the key. You don’t need to get straight A’s to pass CRNA school. You have to pass and get whatever their percentage is but don’t kill yourself. Not striving for perfection is key, especially if you are a parent. Just get through it, and the guilt is always going to be there too. I feel like even as a working parent, you are always going to have that guilt. I always hate it when my children are like, “Mommy, play with me,” and I’m like, “But I’m in the middle of cooking dinner, and I have to feed you too,” or whatever it is. They are like, “Play with me, mommy.”
Maybe it’s a holiday or whatever, and I’m trying to work from home but they are here. They are like, “If you are here, you are going to play with me, right?” I experienced that too and it is so hard. You are right. When they are younger, they are not going to remember as much but also a lot more physical work. Our youngest, when he was fourteen months or whatever he was. We were at a graduation party. I turned my back for five minutes. He went into the house with dad. I’m blaming this on dad because it has to be a dad. Dad takes all the kids into the house to get some cake or something like that.
I come in five minutes later and like, “Where’s Caden?” The next thing I know, I see Caden walking around the corner. He has something in his hand and puts it in his mouth. I was like, “What is that, Caden?” It’s liquid ant bait and I’m like, “You’ve got to be kidding me.” I’m like, “How much of this did he snack on?” Here we are calling poison control at a graduation party. Anyways, luckily you need a lot of ant bait to do some damage.
If they think they can get into it, they get into it.
You are right. They are so dangerous. It’s unrealistic to think you can work and do something while you have a toddler in the same room or even in the same house. We’ve even had caregivers come to the house and watch our children while I’m home, and that’s even hard because the kids will always find you. You are like, “I’m paying someone to watch you. Go bother them.”
“Go play with them. That’s what they are there for.”
It’s hard, especially if you are with classmates who don’t have that experience. As you said, the lifestyle’s different. It’s funny because if I think back to my time in CRNA school, I thought it was a lot of work and hard but if I compare my life with everything we are juggling now, I’m like, “I had it good.” That was easy compared to what I’m doing now. I’m like, “I have way more to juggle on my plate now than I ever did back then but I felt overwhelmed,” because it was perspective. It’s something I had never experienced before. It was a new phase but we are capable of a lot more than what I think people think. You got to push yourself there. It’s doable, I guess, is what I’m saying. It’s not easy but it’s doable and I love that you still get quality time. You can still work on that.
You need some break time away from CRNA school as well. That balance is important. If you are just CRNA all the time, you are going to burn yourself out.
You need that enjoyment factor in your life, for sure. What would you say is the hardest part of juggling kids and also supporting your wife? From a spouse’s perspective, what would you say is like that, where you just want to scream?
Part of it is entertaining the kids. It’s essentially being like a single parent at this point because you are the one that is on all the time. Especially when Katie’s gone during these days, there’s no one else that’s there. It’s just you. You are the one that’s responsible for them, if something goes bad, how you are feeding them and getting them to bed. Things take a lot more time. You don’t have a united front. You don’t have someone to share in a lot of the time that it takes to deal with kids, whether that’s a bedtime routine. A bedtime routine with the 2 of us takes 30 minutes to 45 minutes between baths, stories, and stuff like that.
Alone, it takes 1 hour to 1 and a half hours when you are trying to get in bed and everything else. You are bouncing back and forth between the two of them. You got one monkey on your back, the other one crawling on your leg. The hardest part is that you were the only one that is involved at that point. Even if she wasn’t traveling or doing something like that, it still is one of those things. You want to be able to give them the amount of time to study to be able to focus on what they are doing, so you are trying to keep them out of the way a lot of the time. That’s what ends up being tough. The hardest part about things is making sure that your spouse is able to focus their attention on what they need to do at the time.
That’s a huge gift. Let me tell you that. Kudos to you because it is such a huge undertaking to do that but that is such a huge gift that you are giving Katie. I know she knows it. The reality is that the kids don’t know. The kids are going to be happy that they are loved, fed, got new toys and shoes or whatever. They are happy but what I wanted to say and what I almost brought up was the fact that if you include your kids in what your mission is, especially if you have older kids. Younger kids maybe don’t get it but you can equally say, “When mommy’s done with CRNA school, we are going to go take a family trip to Disney,” or go whatever vacation you think they want or the beach.
Make it so like, “When mommy’s done doing this, we get to go celebrate as a family to congratulate mommy for what she’s achieved.” Even for older kids, this is important because it sees them working toward a goal. It also gives a great role model experience for them to see, “This is what my mom or my dad did. They worked hard. Sometimes it wasn’t very pretty but I watched them do this and they did this because they knew they were going to give us a better life afterward.” They knew they were going to have a more flexible job. Katie can maybe work part-time, and she will earn as much money as she was working full-time as a nurse, and that’s what I did.
Ultimately, one of the reasons why I went back to CRNA school is because one of my dreams was to be a part-time worker so I could be home with the kids. My parents both worked 60, 70-hour weeks growing up, and we never had family gatherings. They worked and worked. I remember longing for that and thinking, “If I could ever do something in my career that allows me to make enough money to where we can be financially stable but I can work part-time, that’s what I’m going to do.” Naturally, that led me to CRNA, but again, I’m finally there. I’m not technically working part-time but as a CRNA, I am.
They gave me a cold too. Thank you, children. It’s like daycare. They bring all the goodies. I love that. That’s a great perspective and a huge gift. If you are a spouse reading this, if you are someone who is going to be trading off with someone, know that your turn is coming and equally so, if you are in CRNA school and you know your spouse is being that person for you, thank them. Give them a hug. You don’t have to buy them anything. I’m sure they would be happy with a kiss.
Having a beer is fine.
That’s important too because I don’t think I did that enough either. There were times in school when I know my husband had made big sacrifices for me. Even now, as we are juggling three kids, I work part-time. We run, technically now, two businesses. We are working more than full-time, essentially between the two of us. He does much so I can be more present and handle things. I don’t think I say thank you enough, even still to this day but I occasionally recognize when I’m being unpleasant, and I try to realize and acknowledge that like, “I know you were trying to snap me out of it the other night, and I appreciate that. I’m sorry I didn’t have the best tone.”
He always appreciates it when I do that. I don’t probably do it often enough but I have reflection, I guess you could say. If you are a current student and you notice yourself being sharp or nasty, not because you are taking it out on them but because you are frustrated with something else, be cognizant of that because it can wear over time on your significant other. It’s hard to do at the moment, but hopefully, it comes back around. A funny story. Before we did this episode, I Facebook-stalked Jon because I was like, “What is his wife’s name? I’ve got to figure this out because I feel silly. Is it your sister?
That’s my sister. My sister Julia.
Of course, I found his sister. I’m like, “That’s his wife.” I was like, “Julia,” and he’s like, “My wife’s name is Katie.” I’m like, “I feel so silly.” Having Katie in CRNA school, do you think it’s harder on you or it’s harder on the kids?
Mostly, it’s hardest on Katie because she feels pulled in a number of different directions. The kids are well-entertained at this point. They’ve got daycare. They’ve got all of this stuff. They see a squirrel and are distracted for the next ten minutes. At this age, at least, my kids are going to be just fine. There are moments when they are sad or upset that mom is not there to help put them to bed or something like that but those moments are rare at this point.
It can be hard on me in terms of knowing that I’m trying to manage all of the different things between the house, work, and kids but I know that there’s an end to this ordeal. There’s a light at the end of the tunnel, eventually. Now, it may be the train coming to hit me but I know that it’s around the corner here, essentially. Everybody has got their different stressors, is what it comes down to, I’m not in this alone by any means. One of the hardest things is that I know the stuff that Katie is going through, and when she comes to me telling me about some of this stuff, I’m like, “Yeah, I know.”
You are trying to have sympathy, but it’s like, “I have been there. Done that.”
This sucks. This is one of those things that every school goes through. Every student has to deal with some BS like this. The suck it up thing. She doesn’t necessarily get as much sympathy because I have been there.
It’s like when your spouse complains because you are sick, and you are like, “I didn’t complain at all. Maybe you want to have a little cough and want to lay in bed all day. No, thank you. Get your butt out of bed and make dinner.” It’s one of those things where it’s like, “If I have to experience this and muster up the energy to tough it out, I get that part.” Nurses are the worst when it comes to that because we see sick people all the time. It’s the same thing with that experience of like, “This is happening,” and you are like, “Do you remember when I complained about it? You didn’t seem to care then.” It’s like the catch-22.
“Did you die? Did you lose a leg?”
“You are still here, and I’m still here.” that’s a great perspective. It’s always temporary. It does stink. There are going to be times they are going to challenge you. At least the way I look at it now, and I didn’t probably look at it like this in school. I wish I would have. It would’ve helped me mentally. The way I look at things now in my life, and I’ve had some really bad and challenging days where I feel like I’m being swallowed.
What I try to say is I go to find a place of gratitude for what I’m experiencing because if I didn’t have the success that I have or not being in CRNA school, I wouldn’t have the stress. The stress is a result of my success. When you experience challenges and stressors, it’s one of those things where it challenges you to think differently. Do something differently, take action or not. It challenges you in a way that makes you grow as a person that you will come out better for. It may not feel good going through it but when she gets to graduation day, she’s going to look back and be like, “I’m a badass.” That’s what she’s going to think.
We are getting into the juicy questions because I like juicy questions, and if you are like me, my burning desire is to know if Jon had to say what he thinks was harder versus easier, being in CRNA school or being the spouse on the receiving end with his wife in CRNA school. What would you say to that question?
Having A Spouse In CRNA School
I still think that Katie has it harder now. When I went through school, not having kids and having to deal with any of that stuff, it was a whole lot easier to not only coordinate schedules but have a whole lot more free time to deal with. My free time could be spent doing absolutely nothing. It could be spent studying or socializing. We didn’t have the responsibility of kids at that point. Being in Katie’s spot where she’s at with kids and CRNA school, she definitely has it harder.
As frustrating as kids are at this age, as I said, trying to make sure they don’t die can be monotonous at times but it is not difficult to work. I had to deal with whining about why I smelled the bath water last night, and then my nose was clogged up for the next fifteen minutes. That’s stuff. It’s like, “I have a Master’s degree, and I’m dealing with this. Awesome.”Frustrating as kids are, trying to make sure they don't die can be monotonous at times, but it really is not difficult work. Click To Tweet
They try your patience, let’s put it that way, and you are already at your breaking point most of the time. They do that on purpose, by the way, FYI. They like to see what breaks you but also, you look back and reflect, you are like, “They have to learn too.” They are learning what their boundaries are. One way that kids learn is by testing the boundaries, which is a part of being a kid. I would agree with you. Granted, we didn’t have kids in CRNA school but as I spoke to you before, when I think about where my life is and what we juggle now, and I’m not trying to poo-poo that CRNA school period for anyone.
It’s hard no matter where you are in life but I will say CRNA school is going to be harder with kids. Is it undoable? No. One hundred percent it is doable but it’s going to look very different than your classmates. I play Candy Crush for a solid hour after clinical. I come home and wanted to be mindless and zoned out. I could not do that now. We don’t watch anything on TV. We haven’t for six years now. The last time we saw a movie was New Year’s Eve, and we only watched half of it and went to bed. That’s how sad our life is. We don’t take that time. If we have any free time, we are either doing things that are going to help grow the business, helping our kids, planning, talking or going to dinner.
We don’t consume mindless content anymore, and I enjoy that. I remember when I went to grad school, I used to call it my trash TV. I don’t anymore but I called it trash TV because it was like Flava Flave and Rock of Love. It’s total trash. I remember at the time when I went and got into grad school. I was like, “I have to give up my trash TV.” It’s funny because, at the time, we had a little Pomeranian, and he hated the F-bomb. Every time I would go like, “Beep, beep,” he would run around our living room and I was like, “At least, it’s going to be happy for Prince because he is not going to hear these F-bombs being thrown around all the time.”
We got rid of cable, and it was one of the best decisions that we ever did. It was freeing. Still, to this day, we don’t watch TV or anything like that. It’s a different set of priorities and you would be surprised if you look at your daily schedule, what you are currently doing, and how much free time you probably waste. Social media is one of those outlets where you don’t probably realize what you are doing unless you track what you are doing.
Think about it. You lay in bed at night, and how many hours and maybe at least an hour do you spend mindlessly scrolling before you go to sleep? That should be cut out. I know a lot of people want to share their journey these days. It’s great but equally so, don’t spend hours scrolling social media before you go to bed. Get that hour of rest. I’m glad you shared that. What would you want to leave our audience with as far as if they are questioning whether they should do this with kids or have kids?
It’s absolutely doable. Most of it is that you will adapt throughout the entire process. You will figure out what it is that is required of you and how you are going to manage that, and open communication with your spouse is the biggest key to all of that. Understanding that this is my limitation. This is the stuff that I have to do. As you said, setting a schedule saying, “I’ve got this. If you make sure that you have some of this time that’s carved out that you are able to study and other time that is carved out specifically for social time, for family or whatever it may be, those things are important.”
You need to have those boundaries, and you need to be able to meet that stuff as well. When you are going to commit to something like that, then do it. Don’t let that linger over your head. Be present at the moment with whatever you are doing. If you are still thinking about whatever it is during your time with your family, that’s going to take away from some of that quality time you can have with them and maintain those connections, but it is doable. You can do all of this stuff and will be able to make it through no matter what.When you're going to commit to something, just do it. Don't let that linger over your head. Be present in the moment with whatever you're doing. Click To Tweet
That is such good advice, Jon, as far as being present for where you choose to be in the moment. It’s so much easier said than done. It’s so easy to catch yourself not doing that but I challenge you if you are reading, what Jon said was if you choose a family time, be 100% present in that family time. Don’t be thinking about school and what you’ve got to do or checking your phone. Be present.
You will enjoy it so much more. You will get more value out of it. When you are in school mode, 100%, it’s school mode, not family mode or not social media mode but school mode. When you do that, you are going to find that your time is going to become more manageable, and you are also equally going to enjoy your life more.
You said a few other things like adaptability. Adaptability is huge. When you enter CRNA school, one of the reasons why CRNAs tend to be this type of person is because they tend to be adaptable. You already have the ability to be adaptable. The last thing you said, which I want to drive home, and I’ve mentioned this before. It’s so crucial. It’s an area in my life that has taken me this long in my adult life to where I’m like, “Jenny, I have terrible boundaries.”
If you are a people pleaser, raise your hand. That’s me. I don’t mind conflict but clearly, I’ve thought about that in a way because I’m like, “Why do I want to please people?” Is it because I am afraid of conflict, and why is that? It’s made me assess that, and it’s gotten me feeling okay with saying no. As I said, I got into a fight with my husband. I’m like, “Stop asking me because I hated saying no.” I wanted to please him. I wanted to say yes.
That was huge for me. Even in my life still this day, the boundary is huge. The communication aspect of boundaries is what makes a boundary a boundary. You can’t have a boundary without communication. Another person will think you are like, “That’s not very nice.” No. If they understood, they would get the essence of a boundary.
You have to state it out loud. Men are not good at reading subtle cues or obvious cues or any cues. Just say it out loud. Tell us what you want.
Men need to hear it. Say it out loud. Thank you, Jon. This has been so much fun. Where can people find you? I spoke that you are going to more than likely be at the AACN.
I’m hoping to be back for the National Teaching Institute again, which is in Philly. I will be emceeing the big Super Sessions that are there. Sean Patrick and I always have a great time with the Critical Care Nurses. It’s one of my favorite things. You can email me at any time. It’s JonHolmer@Yahoo.com. I’ve got a couple of different things on YouTube. If you need some entertaining stuff, there are some previous endeavors that I’ve done from both AACN and some other stuff that I’ve done there as well.
Thank you, Jon. This has been so much fun. I appreciate your insight. I know your time is valuable. I hope you enjoyed the show, and thank you so much for tuning in. We will see you next time. Bye-bye.
About Jon Holmer
Jon Holmer is a CRNA of four years currently practicing in the fantastic paradise of Kokomo Indiana. Jon was an ICU nurse for 11 years prior to anesthesia school, starting in southern New Mexico and then central Illinois as a CVICU nurse. He attended Case Western Reserve in Cleveland Ohio graduating in 2018. After grad school, he worked in Akron Ohio at SUMMA medical center, gaining excellent exposure to ERAS protocols and a focus experience in regional anesthesia.
Jon has been involved in the national organization for critical care nurses (AACN) emceeing their annual NTI conference over the last 6 years. He has also emceed a number of state meetings for AANA.
Jon and his wife Katie have 2 kids, Kipton – 4 and Poppy – 2. They moved 2 years ago for Katie to attend CRNA school in Indiana, which sounds like a challenge on so many levels. He is excited to share his journey and experience with all of you today!
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