CRNA since 1992I have known I wanted to be a nurse since the second grade. How I arrived to that conclusion is another story for another day!
I was a nursing student in the early ‘80s - big hair and all – enrolled in an associate degree program at my local community college. I was a first-year nursing student proud of my white uniform, blue pinafore, and nursing cap. One day during clinicals, the anesthesiologist doing his preoperative rounds - in those days, all patients were admitted the day before their surgery and anesthesia came around to the pre-operative care unit for the next days’ procedures – stopped and talked to me. He had heard I was very “sharp,” and went on to ask if I had considered going to nurse anesthesia school. My reply was, “What? Nurses can give anesthesia?” I had never heard of such. He assured me they could, and my interest was piqued. How ironic - an anesthesiologist put me on my career path.
I decided to observe in the operating room for a few days. I was most interested in the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA) of course, and the first day, there was an airway emergency. In the chaos, the duties of the nurse anesthetist seemed very exciting. Instead of frightening me off, nurse anesthesia intrigued me even more.
I had a tonsillectomy during my nursing school days, and I told Rick Smith, CRNA, the CRNA that anesthetized me, I was going to do what he does one day. He just chuckled. Little did he know I would work for him 10 years later.
My husband was a roadie for The Embers, a popular beach band in the Southeast. Along with many other duties, he ran the spotlight and traveled with the band much of our first year of marriage. One night he called and told me the band was playing a private party for an association. That association was the North Carolina Association of Nurse Anesthetists! A man had sat and talked to him for most of the evening. He said his wife was a program director of an anesthesia program. That gentleman was Chal Maree, the third non-CRNA granted honorary membership to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists. His wife was Sandra Maree (Ouellette), MEd, CRNA, FAAN.
In the beginning of my nurse anesthesia program search, I was able to speak with Sandra Maree about the prerequisites that were needed to become a candidate. I was already an intensive care unit (ICU) nurse, but the Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BSN) mandate for admission had already been implemented. I began going to school five mornings a week after working 12-hour night shifts. I managed to have three children and graduate with a BSN degree without missing a day of school.
With four year’s ICU experience under my belt, I decided experience in the operating room would help me stand out from other nurse anesthesia candidates. There, I met many CRNAs who continually encouraged me to apply to anesthesia school. Betty Petree, CRNA, was one of those. I never told her the impact she left on me. I guess she will find out now!
Anesthesia school was one of the most difficult challenges I have ever faced. Even with three children, I managed to be the president of my class and write a thesis! I owe a debt of gratitude to my immense support system. Many of my classmates have remained lifelong friends including Gerard Hogan, DNSc, MSN, CRNA, LTC, USA, who is now program administrator of the nurse anesthesia program at the University of North Florida. He still remains one of my best friends and brother I never had. I owe special thank-you’s to my mother, who always believed in me, kept my children and basically raised them for two years, and my husband, who encouraged me during these difficult times and was nearly a single parent.
Becoming a nurse anesthetist was the best decision I have ever made, and I would do it all over again! My involvement in the AANA has yielded many friendships from all over the country. I count three that have been a blessing in my life: Tracy Castleman, MS, CRNA; Carole Doyscher, CRNA; and Jackie Rowles, MBA, MA, CRNA, ANP-BC, FAAPM, DPNAP. Whatever small measure I have contributed to the AANA pales in comparison to what I have received.