CRNA 1979-2013My girlfriend at the time (now my wife) was a nursing student and asked what I intended to do with my Biology degree. After figuring out that I really didn’t know (we decided oceanography wasn’t too realistic for a boy from South Dakota!), she suggested I look into nurse anesthesia as they had just had a talk about nurse anesthesia. It sounded intriguing so I called my hometown physician. He agreed that it was a great profession and suggested I come to surgery sometime at my small local hospital. He called my home one night about midnight and said they were going to do an appendectomy and one of the CRNAs was on his way up to give the anesthesia. So I went up to my small, rural local hospital and visited with the CRNA (Rex Henderson, CRNA) for quite some time (even after the midnight case he was willing to stay and visit!). My local physician wrote letters of recommendation for me and luckily, the CRNA that came to do the case was actually the assistant school director so it all worked out well!! I added nursing to my biology major and received both degrees. One of the highlights of my career was to be able to return to my local hometown hospital and give anesthesia for Dr. Otey who was so instrumental in my career.
The autonomy and the ability to play a very important role n the delivery of heath care appealed to me. Also, the ability to make a good living while doing something so valuable intrigued me.
Every CRNA is able to care for patients when they are most vulnerable. We have such a great ability to interact with the patients and not only provide great technical care, but also the great human care that nurse anesthetists provide. Being able to care for patients and know that I truly make a difference in the lives of those I care for is a responsibility I take very seriously and one I am grateful for daily. The trust patients place in all of us is amazing and not to be taken lightly.
It’s very hard to believe….but I have been a CRNA for 29 years. I must have started when I was 15!!!!
My career and my involvement in the AANA have given me tremendous opportunities. Being very involved in both my state association and the AANA has allowed me to expand my knowledge so much from what I do every day in the OR. It is not an understatement to say that my involvement in the AANA has given me growth opportunities far beyond what I would have had if I had not chosen to be involved. The training opportunities I have had serving on the AANA Board of Directors twice, and serving as AANA Vice President, have been invaluable and allowed for professional growth.
The things I have learned from my role with the AANA are used daily in my current role as manager of the anesthesia department. My involvement has also given me opportunities to travel to places I would never have seen and allowed me to meet public figures I would never have met. I have been able to have dinner in the office of the Senate Majority Leader the evening before the historic impeachment hearings. Certainly a bit of history and an opportunity I would never have had if I had not chosen to be actively involved in the AANA. And, most importantly, my career and involvement have allowed me to make so many friends across the nation. The CRNAs I have had the opportunity to know are the highlight of my career.
What has been the most unexpected aspect of being a CRNA during your career? What has surprised you most? Oh…good questions! I would have to say the advances in the drugs we are currently using versus the drugs we had when I started. Especially all the options we have with muscle relaxants that have made thing much easier, in my opinion. And, I guess the added paper work and governmental influence on the profession. That never ceases to amaze me!!!
To future generations of anesthetists: GET INVOLVED. The profession of nurse anesthesia hasn’t made the great advances it has by having CRNAs not being involved. Being a CRNA is not an hourly job…it is a profession that demands more of you. Many involved CRNAs have worked very hard to make this profession what it is today. We all stand on their shoulders. We must all do more than go to work and punch a time clock. A profession requires more than that. I have been very active in the profession and it has been a very rewarding experience. And, I hope I’ve been able to leave my fingerprints on the profession. I would urge all CRNAs to consider involvement in the association.
Editor's Note: Vigness served the AANA and the South Dakota Association of Nurse Anesthetists (SDANA) in a range of capacities, including a term as AANA vice president (2007-08) and Region 4 director (1995-97); three terms as SDANA president (1987-88, 1990-91, and 1993-94); and on numerous national and state committees, as well as a vast array of other leadership activities. He passed away on January 28, 2013, after a long battle with cancer. Known for his smiling sense of humor and his love of practical jokes and teasing, Vigness nevertheless introduced countless colleagues to the world of nurse anesthesia, political activism, meetings, and how to have fun doing it all. We are proud to remember him here in his own words.