Do I have what it takes to become a CRNA?
It's a question all CRNAs have asked themselves at one point or another. Whether that was in the midst of the rigorous application process, or after a really hard day at clinical.
Fear is normal. It means you're doing something right.
While proceeding with caution is healthy and 100% warranted, there is also truth to the Nike slogan “Just do it.” Sometimes you just have to go for it.
Now, I'm not saying you should apply to CRNA School blindly and without some intense preparation and mindset evaluation (you likely wouldn’t get in if you just apply on a whim first of all), however I am saying that after doing your due diligence in research, don't let fear hold you back from pursuing your dreams.
CRNA school isn't for everyone. However, if you want to become a CRNA, with the right grit, determination and perseverance, you can do it. The question really comes down to, how bad do you want it?
The BIG question: “What makes CRNA school so hard?” I’ve narrowed it down to FOUR big reasons.
It's like drinking from a firehose. You have to understand pathophysiologies down to the cellular level. You have to understand the mechanism of action of a lot of drugs. Then combine those together, what happens when you give a patient with aortic stenosis nitroglycerin? (Answer: Extremely bad things.)
Every week whether you are in a front-loaded or integrated program, most of your free time is going to be spent studying. Yes, you will be able to take short breaks to work out, spend time with your family, or decompress. However, for the rest of the time? You'll be studying. Each lecture is basically an entire chapter in a textbook. You know how much information that is? A lot. And most of it is NOT information that you already know, it’s brand spankin’ new.
Sure you've studied how different vasopressors work. Heck, you needed to know that for your CCRN! But did you study exactly what happens at the neuromuscular junction, when epinephrine activates a G protein-coupled receptor located in the postsynaptic neuron? Can you tell me exactly what the effects of every single second messenger is? You get my point. You’ll need to know the details about the details. It’s a WHOLE new level.
Because you are going to feel like you never know enough, you are going to always feel like you should be or need to be studying. Because you will be feeling incredibly stressed, it can be really easy to feel imbalanced. Truthbomb: your family will be sacrificing a lot. If you have a significant other, they are also making an incredible sacrifice while you are in CRNA school. They are likely going to have to pick up much of the slack at home, especially if you have kids. You are going to want to be spending every single second studying. Does this mean you should completely ignore your family for the next three years? Absolutely not. Are there many people who went through CRNA school with young or multiple children? Absolutely. The key here is expectation.
If your family expects you to be as present as you were before CRNA School, they likely will become incredibly frustrated. So how do you prepare? Come up with a plan, maybe apply to programs closer to family or a support system. Maybe save some extra money for extra help with childcare. And if you can, connect with people in CRNA school who might be in similar situations as you. Pick their brain, even have their spouse talk to your partner and tell them what it’s really like.
It's a marathon, not a sprint. The amount of time that you will be engrossed in this new world of anesthesia is at least 36 months. That is a long time. Many of us in our programs developed physical manifestations of chronic stress. Weird cortisol rashes, hair loss, insomnia, stomach ulcers, and I could go on and on. Your body will physically feel beat down in addition to the mental fatigue you are facing. That's why CRNA programs (the good ones at least) really try to support their students mentally in addition to academically. Also, that's why it's so important to show the admissions faculty that you have grit, determination and resilience. That will show them that you have the mental stamina to get through an extremely rigorous program.
Overall, CRNA school is the hardest thing I have ever done. It is also one of the things I am most proud of accomplishing in my lifetime.
Also, it was all temporary. The pain was temporary, the stress was temporary. Would I do it again? A hundred times over. Would I have stressed so much? Probably not. But hindsight is 20/20.
If becoming a CRNA is your dream, then go for it, and jump with both feet in. We are here to support you, guide you, and to help you avoid making the same mistakes we did. I can tell you I 100% love my job, and am so happy I went for it.
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