Have you ever started on an educational or career path having your sites set on that ONE “thing” that you were going to pursue and you couldn’t imagine doing anything else? Well, there seems to be quite a bit of passion in nursing school among the students about what area of nursing they want to pursue. Hey, I was one of them. Even before I stepped foot onto the University of Colorado campus to learn about pathophysiology, I was already plotting out my course to become a nurse anesthetist.
Sure it seemed like the “guy thing” to do, but I was passionate about this career path. I had friends who worked in the field (both Registered Nurse Anesthetists and Anesthesiologists), and their input helped me decide that this too was my calling. The decision seemed so finite that I even scouted out different parts of the country that my wife and I were going to move to so that I could go to school for this specialized area of nursing.
To give you a little background, my first clinical rotation was in labor and delivery. I was actually excited just by the fact that this was my first rotation, but there were some obvious feelings of anxiety seeing as I was a man in nursing school and the assumption is that it’s an easier sell to learn in the presence of moms-to-be if I was in medical school or doing my residency. A baffling concept that will have to be for another post altogether. I digress.
So regardless of my desire to pursue anesthesia, and my preceptor’s assumption that I was after the “sexier” rotations in the ICU to further feed that desire, I did actually want to make the most of this rotation. As the class and the clinical rotation progressed, the more challenging the material became, but of course I was determined to absorb the information and apply it.
As you can imagine I was intrigued by the CRNA’s that worked on the L&D floor and I wanted to take advantage of every opportunity to observe epidural placements and also their administration of anesthesia in the operating rooms. My rotation occurred in a hospital that specialized in high risk pregnancies, so these opportunities were abundant.
Shadowing these CRNA’s certainly quenched my thirst for a technical knowledge of the practice, but I was also quite intrigued at how empowering this intervention could be for the mothers. I don’t have a uterus, nor do I claim to understand the pain during child birth. What I did feel during this rotation however is relief for the mothers when the CRNA’s dialed in the pain management. The patients seemed less stressed, able to refocus on the baby, and re-engaged with their partners so that they too could share in the experience of child birth.
It was at that point that this “control” that was given back to the mother reaffirmed my desire to want to pursue this path of nursing. So, I finished out this rotation along with all of the other clinical experiences during my education, all the while taking every opportunity to shadow a CRNA to become more familiar of their roles in each setting.
After school I decided to move and take a job at Johns Hopkins Hospital in the cardiovascular surgical intensive care unit (CVSICU) as I felt this experience would prepare me in my pursuit to become a CRNA. Hands down, this experience was exceptional. The nurses and physicians were incredibly smart, highly technical, but at the same time very grounded and compassionate individuals. The exposure to a patient population with a level of complexity that was almost unheard of along with the equipment and medications used for treatment in this environment was astounding. At the time I felt that this was IT for me. This experience would help me hone those needed skills to enter into an advanced practice program, and help secure my footing for a variety of post graduate opportunities as a CRNA.
And, I still know that it would have as some of my previous colleagues that I worked with at Hopkins are now practicing and thriving as CRNA’s. If you follow me here or on the various platforms I frequent, then you know I’m not currently practicing as a CRNA. I didn’t even apply for admission into a program.
During my stint at Hopkins my wife decided that she wanted to take advantage of a job opportunity back in Colorado, and after considering her sacrifices she made for me to complete nursing school while newly married and a move cross country to pursue a career at Hopkins, how could I say no? I know what it’s like to be hungry for a great opportunity, and this was going to be a career changer for her. It in fact was, and still is.
So, after moving back to Colorado where no nurse anesthesia graduate programs existed mind you, I headed down the path of entrepreneurship. I had an opportunity to become a patient advocate, a consultant, and to work in the community with individuals who needed it the most. I quickly realized that although my experience at Hopkins was initially intended to lay the groundwork for me to be able to work as a nurse anesthetist, it actually gave me the skills to work in a variety of settings where I could apply critical thinking and an unwavering approach to care for a medically complex population.
Except this time I didn’t have a plethora of highly skilled clinicians or a robust inventory of equipment to help me provide care to my patients. I soon found out that providing community based care has its own adventurous aspects and at times can be some of the most challenging environments to ever work in.
During my years as a consultant and working in the community I started to see a trend that I was working with more female clients. This made me think back on my L&D days as a student trying to grasp the level of complexity of women’s health. I suppose that during that time I was somewhat perplexed. I think I still have a few of those feelings today, but what I’ve come to realize is that I’m actually fascinated by this sub-specialty and how there’s a great need for women’s health practitioners.
I’ve recently become even more intrigued by women’s health issues after we interviewed the Board Members of the American College of Nurse Midwives on RN.FM Radio. This enlightening discussion has led me to pursue continuing education on how to better support women’s health, and I’ve even considered the idea of furthering my education to become an advanced practice women’s health nurse practitioner or nurse midwife.
What I’ve taken away from this experience is the same thing that I often tell those individuals that I mentor as a career and business consultant. I’m keeping my head on a swivel. I suggest you do the same. Opportunities are abundant, and clarity about what you want to be doing can present itself at any moment.
Early on in your education or your career you may think that you know exactly what you want to be doing, and yes, there’s a chance that you might actually remain on that path. But my advice is to continue keeping that head of yours on a swivel, keep an open mind, embrace change and roll with the ebb and flow.
Uterus or not, I’ll continue to forge ahead in support of women’s health needs, and I want to thank those CRNA’s early on who helped lead me down this path.
This post is part of the Scrubs Magazine Blog Carnival. If you’re a nurse blogger and would like to participate, then what are you waiting for? Supporting each other and collaborating has never been this easy.
Well said, Kevin, and a great story. I love how you share your own process in your posts and stories. It's so helpful for nurses to share together, especially those new to the profession. Nicely done, hermano.
@nursekeith Why thank you sir. My goal is to provide information (often times through personal stories) for both the budding and experienced nurses. Glad that we can all come together as part of the blog carnival. There's a lot of great info out there that we're sharing and I look forward to us all building community.