Why I Became a CRNA

Diana Quinlan, MA, CRNA

  • Jun 29, 2011

Past Chair, AANA Peer Assistance
CRNA Since 1975; Retired 2008

Diana QuinlanMy family felt college was a waste of money for females, so my entry into healthcare in 1965 was a bit back door, actually the morgue door. Using the only marketable skill I could muster, I actually captured my first $1.25/hr job by taking dictation and typing autopsy reports for our local hospital laboratory. From that point on, each successive job was moving up. After being pressed into service to do venipunctures and perform lab studies, I was asked to design and inaugurate the first ward clerk position in my hospital. That brought me out of the basement lab and into the nurse’s station.
Working with nurses I admired inspired me to become one and a few years later when working with a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) as a scrub nurse, I had the same response. Critical care and surgical nursing was exciting and challenging, but I was drawn to anesthesia because I could commit totally to one patient intensively from preanesthetic evaluation through emergence.
Although I worked clinically for years, I also was involved in the education of student nurse anesthetists, as a didactic instructor and also a program director. The increasing standards of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) required advancing my education at several points during my career including graduate school while working full-time and raising a three year old. Mentoring students was one of the most rewarding experiences and I’m proud to say one of them became President of the AANA.
Over the course of the last 40 years I’ve witnessed the challenges that CRNAs face in their private and professional lives. That brought me to an understanding of the need for education about the risk of addiction in our profession and then the broadening of our peer assistance mission into wellness issues. I’ve been a proud member of the AANA since 1973 and appreciate the wisdom and compassion found within our organization from its members and staff to our dedicated officers and committees.
CRNAs are supreme caregivers with a natural passion for kindness and empathy. Its been gratifying to have spent so much of my life in the company of my wonderful colleagues. When I entered training we were still using explosive gases, monitoring consisted of pulse, blood pressure, pupillary response and respiration; monitors were non-existent . Because scavengers were still to come, headaches were common after a long day of using Halothane. Equipment was rudimentary but listening to every heartbeat and breath meant total focus and vigilance. Advances in monitoring and pharmacology have exponentially increased proficiency but also demonstrate how complex anesthetics are today. Future generations of anesthetists can find their careers just as rewarding if they have the same kindness in their hearts and the desire to let every day be a learning experience.