In the past few years, the CRNA School application pool has gotten a lot more competitive. This might be due to social media, the increased awareness about the profession, or maybe even the fact that Covid was incredibly stressful for nurses and that lit a fire underneath them to pursue the next steps in their careers. Regardless, it takes a lot more to get into CRNA school now then it did 5 years ago.
Meaning, what you read on an allnurses.com thread from 2016 isn't going to be applicable anymore.
So today I want to talk about a recurring theme that has become increasingly obvious amongst applicants who are accepted.
And that is human to human connection.
What do I mean exactly? I mean getting yourself in front of program faculty (preferably face to face).
Now, it may seem impossible to get in front of a program director or a faculty member. Or it may seem downright uncomfortable and intimidating. But I really want to stress how important it is for you to put yourself out there. Think about how many applicants there are each year. There are hundreds. Anything that you can do to stand out and make an impression, is priceless.
I'm going to talk about some ways that you can get your name in front of the right people. And I’m not just making this up, these are ways that applicants have stood out and made a connection.
The first thing that you can do is attend your State's AANA meeting. So the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiologists (AANA) is our professional organization. It's equivalent to the AACN for ICU nurses. It's very important for CRNAs to be involved in the AANA, and as a result schools really look closely at if you are involved in your own professional organizations.
So the AANA has a couple of national meetings each year where CRNAs from around the country attend and either lobby for the profession or get continuing education credits, connect, and network. The other types of meetings the AANA has are State Meetings. And if you've been around here for a minute you'll know how big I am on pushing you to attend your AANA State meeting. Usually States will have one to two meetings a year, maybe a fall conference and a spring conference. Each meeting will have guest speakers, breakout sessions, and poster presentations. There will be program directors there, faculty members there, as well as SRNAs. So you can see where I'm going with this. It is absolutely invaluable for you to attend these meetings, connect with current students and connect with faculty members.
Feeling intimidated? Attending AANA meetings as an RN is not as uncommon as you think. People aren't going to be looking at you giving you the side eye wondering why you are there. They are going to be absolutely impressed that you are taking the initiative to step out of your comfort zone and network and learn more about a profession that really is difficult to learn about.
Furthermore, it's incredibly important for you to understand the trending topics in anesthesia. First of all, you might get asked about it in your personal essay, and if you don't, it would be a really insightful touch for you to be able to talk about the things that you learned attending your State's AANA meeting. Second of all you might get asked in your interview, “What are some issues facing the CRNA profession today?” and you will absolutely have the answer because those are the exact things that get talked about in AANA meetings.
One applicant attended her States AANA meeting, and introduced herself to a program director, explained why she wanted to go to that school, and at the end of the discussion the program director told her I'm looking forward to seeing your application and seeing you for an interview. Yup, it happened!
Another applicant recently attended a State meeting and met people from a very (I mean VERY) competitive program, and made such a great impression the speaker at the meeting called him out in the middle of a presentation and praised him for being so involved and proactive.
You think that people aren't going to remember you but, they absolutely are. And furthermore, attending meetings is going to look excellent on your resume and give you great content to talk about in your essay. Bonus points!
The second type of meeting to attend would be an AANA national meeting. There are a couple of big meetings that happen each year. The first one is going to be the Mid-year Assembly. Every year this happens in Washington DC, and the purpose of this meeting is really to drive a positive change for U.S. healthcare. CRNAs are going to be advocating politically for the profession and really looking to make connections with our national leaders. Students will also be there. You'll have a chance to meet people and see political advocacy at its finest.
Then there's also the Annual Congress. This is typically your more traditional conference type of format. There will be presentations, networking, dinners, happy hours, lots of program directors, faculty members and many students are typically required to attend. You'll learn so much about the research that's going on in the CRNA profession. You'll hear poster presentations and you will meet so many crnas and students. 2023’s Mid-year Assembly is in April and it's going to be held in Seattle, and in 2024 it's going to be held in San Diego.
The last type of national meeting I want to chat about is the ADCE, the Assembly of Didactic and clinical educators. This is a prime conference for you to connect with faculty and to ask questions about programs and learn the trends in anesthesia curriculum. This is not just an exclusive conference for faculty members, CRNAs are also encouraged to attend even if they are not directly involved in didactic training. This is another wonderful way for you to connect with people and build that know, like, and trust factor.
Overall, I expect everyone to attend an AANA event whether it's virtually or in person. Of course in person is highly encouraged, but at the end of the day being interested in professional organizations is extremely important, and for you to take the initiative and get involved in the AANA this early in your career is going to be a huge thing for you.
In summary, I really want to encourage you to put yourself out there and attend an AANA meeting and introduce yourself to some CRNAs. You'll find that people want to help you, and they are going to be so excited to tell you why they love the profession, why you should attend the school that they attended, and things that they wish they did when they were applying. People want to see you succeed, they want to have people in the profession that are go-getters, and if you are attending an AAA meeting you are definitely a go-getter. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
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