Why I Became a CRNA

Betty Horton, PhD, CRNA

  • Oct 14, 2009

CRNA Since 1968

Betty HortonTwo women in my life stimulated my interest in anesthesia. As a child I was fascinated by Mother’s story of how she was anesthetized for a mastoidectomy as a child. She said that the surgical procedure took place on the kitchen table in her family’s home.  The doctor was about to administer the liquid anesthetic by the “open drop” method when my Mother asked to go to the bathroom. She received permission and promptly went to the bathroom and locked the door. After some coaxing she emerged from the room and assumed her place on the kitchen table. She said the last thing she remembered was seeing the neighbors watching the anesthetic induction from their second story window next door.
My big sister, Margie Rickey, CRNA, BA, also influenced me with her stories as a nurse anesthetist. I learned what cases were the most challenging and the satisfaction of providing anesthesia care from listening to her. I also remember that she smelled of ether after working in the tonsil room all day using open drop and insufflation techniques. Years later when they opened an anesthesia school in my hometown, Margie encouraged me to apply. She was the school’s first program director on record and a perfect role model. Margie is now retired after a long and successful career in anesthesia.
My decision to become a CRNA was not easy because I liked working as an obstetrical nurse; however, the pay was not good and I often worked evenings or nights. These shifts enabled my husband and I to share the care of small children, but they were too inflexible for family life. Anesthesia would offer me better pay plus more flexible hours; therefore, I applied to school and was accepted. Much to my delight, I loved everything about anesthesia. It was a wonderful choice for me!
I graduated from Decatur Memorial Hospital’s School for Nurse Anesthetists in 1968 as the program’s third graduate. I had to drive 100 miles to St. Louis to write the Certification Examination. The wait for the letter to arrive from AANA with my exam score was almost unbearable. The scores were reported as percentiles and I received a 99+ percent; I was thrilled with my score since I was afraid I would have to write the exam again.  My family and I celebrated, as they had all supported my efforts as a student.
Being a CRNA has provided me with career, education and professional opportunities beyond my expectations as a new graduate from a certificate program. I served as program director for the Decatur program where I led the development of a baccalaureate curriculum and a master’s degree curriculum. I also served as president of the Illinois Association of Nurse Anesthetists following eight years as chair of its Government Relations Committee. In 1990, I became director of the Council on Accreditation, and later added responsibility as AANA Director of Education. Over the years, I earned a baccalaureate degree, two master’s degrees and a PhD from Rush University in Chicago. Each of these degrees was the result of striving to meet personal goals and accreditation requirements for program administrators. One of my cherished moments was when I was honored with AANA’s Helen Lamb Outstanding Educator Award. I now serve as a self-employed education consultant and chair of the Education Committee for the International Federation of Nurse Anesthetists. Becoming a CRNA is what has made all of this possible!