CRNA since 19891974: Richard Nixon resigns, Leonardo DiCaprio is born, inflation is out of control at 11 percent, mortgage interest rates hit 17 percent and I got my first job as an orderly at Mt. Sinai Hospital in Cleveland, Ohio. While some of my high school friends were flippin’ burgers at McDonald's, I was pushing patients to x-ray, delivering lab specimens, emptying laundry and, whenever I could, sneaking into the operating room observation area. I’d make excuses to pass through the double doors that said SURGERY in big bold red letters. This looked like the coolest place on earth; someone was always rushing somewhere dressed in light green pajamas!
Over the next few years while I worked in Recovery Room, Respiratory Care, Surgical Intensive Care Unit (SICU) and ER, I was also a regular fixture hanging around the OR Nursing Director’s office door. I wanted one of those scrub technician jobs they gave to the surgeon’s sons for summer relief. But my father was a social worker, not a surgeon. Whether it was my persistence, or just a way to get me away from her office door, I finally got the job!
I loved the operating room. It is a world unto itself; there is nothing else like it. The surgeons and nurses were tough, but once you were accepted, it was family. Once I got comfortable and developed competence and confidence I was able to look beyond the surgical field to the head of the table. Turns out, that’s where the really cool folks were. Anesthesiologists and nurse anesthetists, who, calm and unperturbed, with what seemed like magic, rendered patients insensible to pain, took care of their every need, talked back to the surgeons as equals, and when the surgery was done, in another act of prestidigitation, reanimated the patient! How the hell did they do that? I wanted to know…I needed to know.
Having already ascertained that nurses were the hands-on professionals within the hospital walls, I chose to go to Kent State University’s School of Nursing. I didn’t mention on the application that I was going to be a CRNA, but I knew that’s where I was going to end up. I knew that living my professional life in the operating room, being able to use my mind, intuition, and technical and interpretive skills to relieve pain and suffering was my niche…and my privilege. In fact, just recently I lectured to some junior student registerered nurse anesthetists and these very words spontaneously emerged as my professional raison d’ etre: "it is my honor and privilege to provide comprehensive anesthesia care to patients and their families during a stressful period in their lives." How many people can say that?
It’s been 24 years since I graduated from The Mt. Sinai Medical Center of Cleveland School of Nurse Anesthesia (sadly, neither the hospital nor the program exist anymore). I was so fortunate to have great CRNA and anesthesiologist mentors. I am forever grateful to these folks for what they taught, how they taught and what they expected from me. I could not have made a more perfect choice in professions. Becoming a CRNA has helped me actualize my professional and personal goals. It’s the magic…