Mentor Interview: Nurse Anesthetist

Catalina E.

Palm Beach State College

Since my early childhood, I have been enamored with technology and medicine. I was given a stethoscope and blood pressure cuff from an uncle of mine who is a General Physician and because I wore my stethoscope everywhere I gained the nickname “doctora” (doctor in Spanish). Throughout high school I volunteered for a foundation that fed the homeless and cared for their injuries. After I graduated from high school I pursued the degree of Surgical Nurse. While I was seeking my degree I practiced in multiple hospitals which gave me the opportunity to see multiple procedures and their protocols. I always also dreamed of getting a degree abroad and so I moved to the United States and decided I wanted to pursue an internationally recognized degree. I am currently finishing my A.A. and will be attending Nursing School at F.A.U.  In search for a mentor, I found a great professional in the field of Nurse Anesthetists that answered a couple questions about the biggest challenges in her career and how she became a very educated nurse throughout her life which gave me an idea of what my professional career will look like.

Nurse Anesthetists have been working on patients for more than 150 years, assisting them with painless, stress-free surgical procedures.

The first nurse to administer anesthesia was Catherine Lawrence, during the American Civil War assisting soldiers during their recovery from major wounds, although the first recognized nurse anesthetist was a catholic nun who practiced anesthesia at a local hospital in Erie, Pennsylvania.

In 1909, St. Vincent’s Hospital, in Portland, Oregon, offered the first education program for nurse anesthetists and this is how more academic institutions started offering training for nurses in this field.

Lynn Reede started a long path of education in Canton, Ohio in 1976 and she did not realize what a lengthy journey she was about to encounter. She then got her Nurse Anesthesia certificate in 1983 and soon after that, even before she finished her Bachelor of Arts in Allied Health, she got accepted into the program of Anesthesia (back when you did not need a BSN to practice this profession). At this point, Lynn thought it was the end of her education and that she could soon start practicing this amazing bit of science she had learnt in school, but she never stopped learning and gained a lot of experience in a multiphasic career.

Q: Thank you for giving me the chance to perform this interview, I am very honored to talk to you. Looking at your CV I can tell you took years going to school and giving your best to become a nurse anesthetist, how did you encourage yourself to continue with the lengthy education path you choose?

A: I would say the trick is to live a day at a time and to enjoy what you do at the maximum. I never thought I would go from one career to another, it just happened! and I love what I do. I can’t imagine doing something different than what I chose. I come from a family of very hardworking people and I was always asked to give the best of me from my parents.

Q: How did you choose the career of nursing? Does anyone in your family have medical background?

A: I had no idea I wanted to be a nurse. When I was in high school, one of the career counsellors introduced me to a secretary experience which I thought was definitely not what I wanted to do. By the time I was a sophomore, I knew I had to find something I would like to do in college. So one day, my mother took me to this Hospital University of Nursing and I learned what they did, saw the campus and next thing I know I got accepted into their program. That was my first experience with nursing. Once I was in the program I got to love the versatility of being a nurse. During my practices I had the opportunity to work with Nurse Anesthetists and they asked me how I would like to be one of them but I wasn’t really sure. They told me the hospital was going to start doing interviews for a nurse anesthetist and it would be the last chance I would have to get in without a BSN. The staff was very interested in having me work with them and I got accepted that time, it was a Monday, and that’s how I became a CRNA. My family always said: “whatever you do, do it well” and I think that’s what’s important in life. Appreciate what you do, respect the people you work with and do your job right.

Q: How would you recommend I continue the path of education and how can I make myself a better professional everyday?

A: I would live one day at a time. You should finish your Arts Associate in nursing (if that’s the path you have chosen) and after that you should get a certification through the board of nurses in Florida. After that you need to finish your Bachelor of Science in Nursing to become a Registered Nurse. In order to continue with the specialization in anesthesia, you are required to have at least one year of experience working in a ICU. Then you can easily apply for a Doctorate of Nursing in Anesthesia. This will help you improve your skills to be able to practice as a Nurse Anesthetist with or without the supervision of an anesthesiologist. Remember that it’s always important to keep your GPA as high as you can and get very good grades throughout your college experience.

Q: How do you keep yourself informed and updated in the nursing field and what do you recommend I do to be able to get myself involved with the professionals in the area?

A: I have always been involved in all that has to do with anesthesia. I am a member of multiple professional associations such as the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists where I am currently working as the Senior Director of Professional Practice since 2013, International Anesthesia Research Society, the Association of Perioperative Nurses and a couple more. This helped me stay in touch with a wide group of nurses and professionals in the field. I suggest you start joining some of these associations, especially this one I will recommend and it’s called DIVERSITY CRNA. This association meets with students pursuing the CRNA career a couple times a year and they talk about what it is like to be a Nurse Anesthetist, what the challenges are and they even perform an anesthesia simulation session the last day of the information meeting. They are there to inform and mentor diverse population and minorities like you to prepare you for this career. I can introduce you to the president of this association, his name is John and you can attend the next information session, you would really like it!

Q: How has been the experience of working for AANA and what are your responsibilities there? Do you miss the OR?

A: No, I don’t miss the OR (operating room). I have been working for AANA for two years as the Senior Director of Professional Practice. I work with a group of professionals, between doctors and nurses, and what we do is a wide review of medical literature in an attempt to develop resources of different matters for our members to have access to through our association. I also work taking members’ inquiries to answer their questions about the practice of anesthesia. I also respond calls from patients, professional nurses and doctors from all over the country. This is sort of a new chapter of my life. I had the opportunity to work with patients before, which I also loved. I had the opportunity to manage and lead anesthesia services with a staff of 60+ professionals, but that chapter is in the past and what I am doing now requires a lot of work, traveling and time which makes it impossible to be able to practice in the OR at the time. I am very happy where I am now because I think from this position I can still help a lot of people but from different perspectives. I can help a professional as much as I can help students and patients that call for help.

Q: Thank you very much for taking the time to finish the interview.

A: Thanks to you Catalina, I wish you the best and lots of success.

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