Why I Became a CRNA

Terry Wicks, MHS, CRNA

  • Apr 4, 2009

AANA President, 2006-07
CRNA Since 1987

Terry WicksIn 1973, I graduated from Davenport West High School, Davenport, Iowa – unprepared for college, and uncertain of what I wanted to do with my life. Academically, I had not excelled in math or physical science course work, but from an early age I was interested in photography, and I was fascinated by physiology and biology. An Army recruiter offered me an opportunity to join my interests in these seemingly diverse realms by becoming an Army radiographic technician. Many months later, in Fort Knox, Ky., as I was taking a portable wrist X-ray in the operating room (OR) at Ireland Army Hospital, I asked a friend who the officer at the head of the OR table was. He told me he was a nurse anesthetist. Interesting, he was a commissioned Nurse Corps officer, working in an air-conditioned OR, with a screen between himself and the other people, and he had his own chair to sit on! Now, that looked like something I might like to do!
While it might be good drama to say that an unwavering course of my professional life had been set, in truth my path between that moment and graduation from the Anesthesiology Course for Army Nurse Corps Officers in 1986 had its occasional twist or turn. It was not easy to choose between careers in photography (my interest had continued to grow), political science (the '70s were a time of intense cultural change), and nursing (a man in a predominantly woman’s world?). Fortunately, despite those distractions, at every decision point I chose to return to the path of becoming a nurse anesthetist.
When I returned to active duty as a Nurse Corps officer in 1982 in pursuit of this goal, I found a professional culture unlike any that I had seen before. Whenever, and to whomever, I spoke of my interest in anesthesia I found support and encouragement. I would mention to a supervisor that I wanted to go to anesthesia school and he or she would say, “You need to speak to Col. Fabian about this,” or “I’ll be sure to include that in your Officer Evaluation Report.” I spent a day in the OR with Lt. Col. Fran Moriarity at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston in San Antonio, and I was sold. Autonomous practice, clinical decision-making, professional respect, and every nurse anesthetist I met loved their work! In the Army’s nurse anesthesia program, I found instructors who would encourage me and challenge me. They shared their love of the profession, and stressed to me the value and joy of life-long learning. They inculcated in me a deep respect for the privilege and responsibility of caring for patients at their most vulnerable moments, and for being given the opportunity to make a difference in my patients' lives every singe day.
The decision to pursue a career as a nurse anesthetist, and to achieve that goal, has shaped virtually every facet of my life. The gifts that I have received as a CRNA have compelled me to try to give back to my profession, to enable it to be preserved, nurtured, and to prosper so that future generations of nurses can share in this privileged profession.