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Are you tough enough for nurse anesthesia?

09.23.2015 | By: Texas Wesleyan University
CRNA students giving gas in a simulation lab.

A baby goes in to have ear tubes surgically inserted. It's a simple procedure that only takes a few minutes. The nurse anesthetist is called in to use general anesthesia to anesthetize the baby. During the procedure, the baby turns blue in a matter of seconds, she’s having an adverse reaction, and her airway has closed. The nurse anesthetist intubates and the baby is fine.

Nurse anesthesia may not be top of mind when you think of difficult jobs, but it should be. Even simple procedures can require quick thinking and you’re inevitably holding the life of your patients in your hands. It takes a tough individual to get through a nurse anesthesia program and become one of the top nurse anesthetists in the field.

Are You an Academic Rock Star?

The first step in becoming a nurse anesthetist is getting into a nurse anesthetist program, which is difficult in itself. Many qualified applicants are fighting for limited spots, and you need to stand out in personality, drive and education.

Your academic background, as well as your nursing experience, will play a part as to whether or not you are accepted in to a program, which means it helps to work hard from the very beginning.

Do You Love a Long Work Day?

Nurse anesthesia programs are a major time commitment, and that doesn’t stop when school is over. While it’s common for nurse anesthetist to enjoy 24 hours at work and 48 hours off, surgeries can take hours and don’t always go according to plan. That means a lot of time on your feet and out of the house. And if you work in an environment where emergency surgery is common, you may not have as much control over your schedule as you like.

Do You Have Emotional Control?

Working in the medical field requires strong emotional control. It’s easy to get attached to patients, which can be difficult as they are often facing serious injury or illness. The best nurse anesthetists understand that not every patient will have a full recovery, and focus on making sure their patients get the best care possible.

Patients going through the healing process can be in a lot of pain, or have to deal with infections. A strong will and a strong stomach are both important to caring for patients.

Can You Stay Focused?

You need to be present during surgeries, even if you aren’t the center of the action. This means hours spent focusing on your patient’s vitals in the operating room, while surgeons tend to the procedure. Certain moments of this job are extremely exciting; others can be quite tedious to someone who enjoys constant interaction.

Are You a Team Player?

Becoming a nurse anesthetist offers more autonomy than a registered nurse, but anesthesia was created to assist with pain management for medical procedures, which makes teamwork essential. You will engage with doctors, nurses, anesthesiologists, patients, families and more.

While nurse anesthetists are respected in the medical field, there may be times when you are questioned and challenged, and you need to be able to explain your plan quickly and accurately to others in order to get the best outcome for the patient.

Are You Responsible?

While you will not be the one performing surgery, you are responsible for managing pain levels for your patients. If patients report waking up during surgery or being able to feel the procedure happening, you could get pulled from the operating room and into the courtroom in the blink of an eye. While insurance can help cover some of these costs, the stress of the situation could stay with you long after.

It takes hard work, dedication and bravery to excel as a nurse anesthetist. But, ask any nurse anesthetist and we’ll bet they say it’s a wonderful, rewarding career. If you think you are up to the challenge, reach out to a Texas Wesleyan anesthesia program advisor today to discuss your future as a nurse anesthetist.

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