We’ve all heard the adage, “Those who can, do . . . Those who can’t, teach.” Whoever coined that phrase had obviously never met a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA). As CRNAs, we teach every day – we teach our patients, their families, the public, and those with whom we collaborate professionally. And some of us are fortunate enough to teach the next generation of CRNAs. I consider myself lucky to be a member of that group.
I received my Master of Nurse Anesthesia in 2005 from the Mayo Clinic College of Medicine, School of Health Sciences Master of Nurse Anesthesia Program. Attending the anesthesia program at the Mayo Clinic was a true privilege, as it is the oldest continually operating nurse anesthesia program in the country – celebrating its 125th anniversary in October 2014. As a student in this program, I had the opportunity to work side-by-side and learn from many of the experts who write the textbooks that line our shelves. When I graduated, I had no idea that I would eventually become a faculty member at my respected alma mater.
When we were all eager new graduates, we had many goals and aspirations. For most of us, spreading our wings and refining our anesthesia delivery skills was at top of that list. Along with that goal, many of us also wanted to impact our profession in some way. For me, becoming involved in education was an effective means of doing just that.
I view the provision of anesthesia to patients undergoing surgical procedures as one of the greatest privileges in nursing and medicine. The trust that patients put in anesthesia providers is great, and so is the subsequent professional responsibility. I feel lucky to be able to both provide this care and educate others on how to do so. In my role as an educator, I strive to instill in students a sense of inquiry and professionalism while providing them with solid didactic and clinical preparation for their anesthesia careers. Just as providing anesthesia to patients is a great privilege coupled with great responsibility, so is providing education to curious minds.
So what does a day in the life of a nurse anesthesia educator look like? One certainty – two days never look the same! Most days involve a variety of activities – preparing lectures, correcting papers, scheduling workshops, attending meetings, working with students on research projects, etc. The amount of preparation that goes into developing an entire course is astounding. I aim to make sure that my courses include the latest evidence and involve multiple modes of teaching in order to reach all types of learners. This does not happen without the investment of a lot of time and energy – a fact I had grossly underestimated prior to my involvement as a faculty member. The days when I am involved in face-to-face classroom lectures are the best days, as I have an opportunity to interact with the students. These days may involve lecturing, instructing students in workshops or simulation sessions, or casually visiting with them and hearing about their clinical experiences. The feeling one receives when you see the ‘light bulb’ illuminate for a student is nearly indescribable.
Watching the transformation of a timid, new Student Registered Nurse Anesthetist (SRNA) into a confident clinician is an amazing experience, and one that is rarely seamless. Every student struggles at some point in his or her program, whether it is with intubations, pharmacology, or communication. Helping the struggling student, and seeing him or her overcome roadblocks, is particularly rewarding. Because I also work in clinical practice, I have the opportunity to work side-by-side with the students I teach. What a gratifying feeling it is to help a student with an induction or emergence, and realize they barely need you there. Working with students also makes me a better clinical practitioner; teaching them how to deliver the best possible care is a constant personal reminder to follow my own instruction.
Although it may sound mundane, preparing lectures and developing curriculum is also a challenging and rewarding aspect of my job as an educator. Examining current literature, staying abreast of the newest technologies and issues within our profession, and figuring out how to most effectively and creatively deliver this information to students is invigorating. Ensuring this information is delivered within the framework of the standards set forth by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) is a crucial component of curriculum development and delivery. Much debate occurs within our profession about the quality of educational programs these days. I feel a great sense of responsibility to make sure that the program of which I am a part delivers the highest quality, most up-to-date information possible to our learners, and a great sense of pride when I see the high quality CRNAs that are entering our profession.
It’s an exciting time to be involved in nurse anesthesia education. The advent of the clinical doctorate, new technology, and political influences have brought both positive and negative chatter within our profession . . . which all leads to interesting dialogue. Why do we need the clinical doctorate? How will it make me a better CRNA? Is more technology beneficial or detrimental? What can we do to ensure our profession remains respected and relevant? As an educator, I have the opportunity to engage in these rich conversations and hopefully provide some answers to these not-so-straightforward questions.
I would encourage everyone to re-examine those new-graduate goal lists we all made after graduation, and to thoughtfully consider how you might influence our profession. Maybe your means of influence and improvement is through anesthesia education. Remember . . . those who can, do, and those who can do it really well, teach others how! The profession of nurse anesthesia has a long, rich history, and with dedicated educators, it will also have a solid and bright future.
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