Shadowing a CRNA

Probably one of the most critical steps towards applying to nurse anesthesia school is to shadow a CRNA because how will you really know that this is something you want to do if you don’t even have an idea as to what they do on a daily basis?

Prior to shadowing, please please please do your homework. In this day and age, it’s not hard finding information about careers. Read about nurse anesthesia. Read about what CRNAs do. Try to understand what it is exactly we do before coming into the OR with us because when that time comes, you’ll probably be asked a bunch of questions by the CRNA about your interest, why anesthesia, your work history and what kind of preparation you’ve done to get yourself prepared for grad school. If you can’t answer these questions, you’re just wasting yours and the CRNA’s time. I don’t mean to sound abrasive, but at this point in my career, and I’m still new, it’s really easy for me to discern who has what it takes to get into school and who is only in it for financial gain and prestige. Believe me when I say that the money and prestige is overrated. With the amount of responsibility and stress you carry on a daily basis as a CRNA, doing it solely for those two reasons is a surefire to burning out.

So, on your day of observation, have a list of questions prepared to ask the CRNA. This clues us in as to how much homework you actually did and that you understand (as much as you can) what it takes to get into school and what it takes to succeed after school. Plus, a side note, it’s a small world in anesthesia. We know every one or we know someone who knows someone, which is why it’s very important for you to make a great first impression even if it is just a shadow day. Giving off a strong first impression can potentially garner you a letter of recommendation (at best) or maybe this CRNA knows someone who can help you with the admissions process. Who knows? The point is, do your homework before shadowing a CRNA and make sure you come off eager, motivated, and knowledgable about what it is CRNAs actually do. Not doing that will only give off a negative impression and worse, this CRNA may end up mentioning to another individual (say, a CRNA on an admissions committee) that they weren’t particularly impressed by you, which is probably the worst thing you can do for yourself.

I’ll speak from my own experience. I went online and learned as much as humanly possible about the history of nurse anesthesia and its practice. I developed a list of questions I wanted to ask and I even brought my curriculum vitae (just in case I’d be asked about my work and educational history). I was motivated and enthusiastic. I volunteered to the CRNA I was shadowing that I was very interested in research and education and demonstrated that by mentioning my work in the ICU I had been working in. What happened next? She hooked me up with a CRNA who was in the midst of getting his PhD and he invited me to shadow him while he was working on his research project. Additionally, he acted as a mentor for me throughout the admissions process and gave me great advice on how to prep for my interviews and gave me feedback on how I could strengthen my resume. I have and always will be grateful for the help and assistance he provided me…and how did this happen? By merely expressing an authentic desire to be a nurse anesthetist. So, please, take your shadowing opportunity seriously and learn everything you can before meeting a CRNA.

Here’s a basic list of questions you may want to consider asking a CRNA should you have an opportunity to shadow one.

  • What do you like best about your job?
  • What do you dislike the most about your job?
  • What type of personality makes a good nurse anesthetist?
  • What made you choose this career?
  • How hard is it to get a job after school?
  • What are some similar jobs in the field?
  • Is your job stressful?
  • How does your scope of practice differ in this state versus others?
  • What is the difference between a nurse anesthetist and an anesthesiologist?
  • What are you looking for in a patient when monitoring them?
  • What kind of drugs do you administer to keep patients asleep?
  • What steps are involved with consenting a patient for surgery?
  • How do you evaluate a patient’s preparedness for surgery?