Student Session: Your Rookie Year
On Monday, Aug. 12, Devin Miller, CRNA, and Larry Chong, MSN, CRNA, will present a session about the first year of being a CRNA. The staff of the AANA Congress Daily caught up with them for their thoughts about preparing for and navigating the first year as a CRNA.
Congress Daily: Who inspired you or what made you want to become a CRNA?
Larry Chong: I was fortunate to witness a lung resection and a DBS sedation case my first OR shadow day. Needless to say, I was overwhelmed not only by the many moving parts of the surgery, but by the iron-fist control, autonomy, and steadfast attention to patient safety on display by the CRNA.
Devin Miller: I first seriously considered becoming a nurse anesthetist when my wife (who was my girlfriend at the time) looked into going back to school. She told me I should consider shadowing, and suggested I would like it. I followed her advice and, as always, she was right on.
Congress Daily: What surprised you most during your first year as a CRNA?
Miller: My biggest surprise was how well prepared I was. I was nervous about taking care of sick patients and scared I wouldn't be able to perform the skills or think fast enough. But, actually, my education and training had made me ready, and my anxieties were my own invention. I had a lot to learn still, and my skills keep growing and growing, but I was definitely well prepared to start work.
Chong:: How quickly being an independent practitioner accelerates your professional growth. That learning curve hits so hard and so good!
Congress Daily: Was there anything you really felt someone should have warned you about as you began your career, or something you wish had been covered more during your nurse anesthesia education?
Chong: Students should jump at the chance to experience unique case types, patient co-morbidities, or cases in which they have either little or no experience. Make a note somewhere of the case overview, specific anesthesia considerations in case you run across it again!
Miller: I wish there had been more of a focus on how to continue learning after graduation, such as where to find quality and relevant journal articles, or attend conferences, or read relevant textbooks. Someone told me that the rate of learning as a new graduate continues at the same rate as when you were a student for the first three years of practice, which I think is probably right. I tell students to constantly be thinking about things in the OR, to try to keep their minds as sharp as possible.
Congress Daily: Is there anything you would advise graduating SRNAs to do or be aware of to make their transition to CRNA more successful?
Miller: I think the personality you bring to the operating room can have a huge impact on how successful your transition to being a CRNA is. Always show up to work with a positive attitude when you're a new grad. Be the person who volunteers to do difficult cases that other people don't want to do. This makes you better faster, and also ingratiates you to the workplace.
Chong: Humility goes a long way. Many of the professionals around you, CRNAs, physicians, nurses, and techs, have been involved with anesthesia or the OR setting for decades. Seek out advice and don’t be afraid to look like the new person, because you are.
Congress Daily: What can CRNAs who have been in the profession for a while do to help a “rookie” CRNA adapt to their new career and facility?
Chong: Make themselves available—a text to check up on how things are going and ensuring that any of your colleagues can be asked for advice, about anything or at any time, brings comfort to the transition.
Miller: If you're an experienced CRNA welcoming a new graduate into your workplace, make sure to ask if they need anything, or have any questions about how the workplace runs. Be open to helping them and don't leave them to drown in sick cases—make sure they know someone will come if they call for help. Simply knowing that someone with more experience is available to help can make a new graduate a thousand times more comfortable, which means they'll perform better.
Congress Daily: What can AANA do to help a new CRNA begin their career? Are there any resources or any special benefits you feel AANA should offer to a new CRNA?
Miller: The AANA already does a lot for new graduates, such as various wellness programs and financial assistance, such as not charging AANA dues until after the first year. Also, information about refinancing student loans has been a recent addition that can help. The only other thing I would add is that each nurse anesthesia program should make a point of displaying the function of the AANA and its advantages and importance, so that their new graduates know about the resources they can gain.
Chong: Continuing support for nurse anesthesia education online. The lectures and CE credits available make staying abreast of the latest evidence easier in a constantly shifting medical landscape.
Congress Daily: Do you have anything else you would like our members to know about new CRNAs?
Miller: New CRNAs are extremely capable and have a lot remaining to learn, which is a wonderful combination because of the potential it provides.
Chong: Some days are great and some are relentlessly exhausting, but we’re happy to embark on such a satisfying and rewarding career. Looking forward to bringing smiles to the OR and to our patients!
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