Edward Gyukeri, CRNA, MS, has a unique perspective on nurse anesthesia. Serving as a major in the U.S. Army Reserve, Gyukeri has been deployed in four-month stints to both Iraq and Afghanistan, where he’s been part of a forward surgical team tasked with the basic goals of preserving life, limb and eyesight. When not abroad—he devotes one weekend a month and two weeks every summer to the Reserve—Gyukeri works as a civilian nurse anesthetist in Cooperstown, N.Y. This dichotomy has allowed him to see each world’s strengths and weaknesses.
“I actually prefer the military,” said Gyukeri. “I love what I do, but I particularly love what I do when it’s for soldiers.”
He said serving in the army creates a sense of camaraderie, an “us versus them” mentality—all soldiers are on the same side, working towards the same goal.
“That’s really hard to replicate,” said Gyukeri. “There’s no necessity for it in the civilian world.”
Working in a conflict zone where everyone is at risk puts everything into perspective for him. In a civilian hospital, factors like money, politics and personalities all influence patient care. When working in the field, Gyukeri develops “a tunnel vision,” where he only focuses on the three priorities of preserving life, limb and eyesight.
“It could not get any more pure, plain and simple,” he said. Readjusting to civilian life can take some time.
For most of Gyukeri’s professional life, he’s been intertwining the two worlds. He attended college with the financial help of the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps in hopes of becoming a pilot. To his dismay, he was discharged from flight school after being diagnosed with an ulcer, a condition the military saw as stress-related (only several years later, the medical community would find out ulcers are caused by bacteria).
He took the first job he could find upon returning home to Massachusetts, as an orderly in a local hospital. Gyukeri said he had the motivation to want to do something with his life, but no direction. One day, he filled in for a sick anesthesia tech.
“It was sort of fortuitous,” he said, because the CRNAs he was working with asked if he was interested in the profession.
“Right from the start, I had really great mentors,” he said. “They planted the seed.” The CRNAs advised him to get a job at a Veterans Affairs hospital where he could gain experience in the intensive care unit and get into a nurse anesthesia program.
Gyukeri continued to take courses when the Reserve needed him to have certain skill sets. One particular skill CRNAs in the army need that their civilian counterparts don’t is the ability to anesthetize dogs. Civilian veterinarians usually administer anesthesia with the assistance of vet techs, but, in the military, vet techs are not familiar with anesthesia drugs.
“You become schooled very quickly,” said Gyukeri. “Each dog carries his own little laminated soldier card in his vest.”
He picked up the tips and tricks needed to work with canines, such as the tail is the best place to take a blood pressure reading, and that dogs can get a blood transfusion of any type once in their lives. This is because dogs need to be exposed to antigens in other blood types before their bodies can generate antibodies against them. After one transfusion, however, the dog is retired to civilian life.
As for Gyukeri, he’s content dividing his time between his civilian and military lives, easing pain for patients in both New York and on the other side of the globe.