Why I Became a CRNA

Emily McClanahan Funk, MSN, CRNA

  • Aug 30, 2011

CRNA Since 2010

Emily McLanahan FunkI first learned of the nurse anesthesia profession from a family friend in Mansfield, Ohio. Dr. Steven Myers, a general surgeon, gave me exposure to the specialty. When I was in high school, Dr. Myers arranged for me to spend time at the local hospital with several disciplines. I shadowed a nurse practitioner, a physician assistant, a registered nurse first assistant, an OB/GYN and Dr. Myers himself in the operating room. As he introduced the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA), he remarked, “Now this a great profession, for the amount of schooling and the unique training you are receiving, plus the type of work you do, nothing compares.” He then described how the CRNA is responsible for “keeping the patient alive” during a life-sustaining procedure. Without the anesthetist, they could not tolerate the surgery. While shadowing a CRNA, it was clear to see the complex and impressive task, a necessary challenge.
I decided to become a nurse for a variety of reasons–a family member is a nurse, the passing of my own loved one gave me the beside compassion and desire to care for others during that vulnerable period. Academically, it was interesting and something that simply made sense. Science was so logical and fascinating. I shadowed a CRNA all through my nursing education, and I finished my Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. I became a critical care nurse in the intensive care unit with the goal in mind of bettering myself so I could become a CRNA. I worked to get high marks in my classes, served on teams and committees and completed critical care certification. I graduated from the Duke University Nurse Anesthesia Program in 2010, after 28 months, eight clinical sites, thousands of clinical hours.
Like many who enter healthcare, I have a strong desire to serve others. I feel an immense amount of gratitude for being born an American, in a time where a female can attend a college in a profession of her choosing and then advance to graduate and doctorate school. I consider developing countries where even the access to vaccinations or clean water is the dream. It ignites my desire to serve more. I consider the family who just put their own loved one in my care to face an unsettling time while having their own experience with, hopefully, a compassionate, healthcare professional. I am grateful for the educators who taught me physiology, chemistry, physics, and techniques for being a nurse anesthetist.
There is a deep respect I hold for the nurse anesthesia career, because it demands excellence, vigilance, and can be challenging and rewarding. I became a CRNA because each day I have the opportunity and immense responsibility to care for another individual during one of the most vulnerable times in his or her life.