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1st Year of CRNA School: Survival Tips

Going back to school after being away from college for some years is not easy. Making the decision to become a full time student again is scary. When I started I hadn’t been in a college classroom, let alone studied or wrote papers, for over 8 years. Some people start anesthesia school even later in their careers. Others start very early, and to those people I suggest keeping the same routines you had in undergrad that helped you excel. Below are 4 helpful tips to help you make it through the taxing first year of CRNA school:

1. ROUTINES- Routines are very, very important. Find a routine for reading required chapters, studying for exams, preparing for clinicals, etc. Once you get it down, your routine will guide you through the rest of the program. One of my favorites during school was waking up on Sunday mornings, riding my bike to the beach and reading a chapter from Nagelhaut on the sand. This way I was prepared for Monday class and also felt like I did something fun outdoors on a Sunday. If you don’t live near a beach, obviously this won’t work for you, but I think you get what I’m saying.

2. STUDYING- One of the most difficult things about going back to school at an older age is relearning how to study effectively. It is so important to develop good study habits early in the program. Explore different study avenues (books, articles, online resources) and see what works best. Also, find a good and dedicated group of fellow students to study with. I suggest no more than four people who are like-minded and will keep you focused. My study partners and I took turns “hosting” Saturday study sessions at our respective houses. We took turns cooking or buying lunch and we’d literally study from morning to evening, going over new information and helping one and other through the program (shout out to my wolf pack). Also, make sure that you are not the smartest person in your study group. As good as it may feel sometimes to be the one that understands all the material and helps everyone else get it, it’s doing you a great disservice. You need to surround yourself with people smarter than you so that your knowledge and understanding can be elevated by them. My professor always used to tell us, “look around the room, if you’re the smartest person in your study group, get another study group.”

3. BOOKS/ MATERIALS- Aside from your required textbooks and assigned articles for class, find a few other books to keep with you during school. Especially important are the quick reference books you can carry with you during clinicals. Some of the ones I used and helped me out tremendously are (Mass gen, anesthesia secrets, pulmonary guy book, etc). I also loved the Khan Academy videos for in depth, yet wonderfully simplified presentations of major topics in Anatomy and Physiology. Inevitably throughout school, you will have classmates raving about this book or that book and how amazing it is. Whatever tools you decide to use, don’t go out and buy thirty different books thinking they have all the magic answers. Find a handful of reference books and tools (again these are apart from your required texts) and use those to supplement your learning.

4. PERSONAL LIFE- On orientation day at my program, a professor stood up and began by telling us that at least three marriages will be destroyed by the end of this program, in our class alone. I’m not sure how accurate that statement was, or if he was just bitter about his own life, and at the time I thought it was a really strange way to welcome us to the program. But eventually I understood what he was trying to say. Anesthesia school sucks the life out of you. You will become so immersed in the studies and deadlines and yes, the drama of school, that you will find little time for anything, or anyone else. As I've said before, anesthesia school is a huge commitment, not just on your part but on the part of your family and loved ones as well. You will miss birthday parties, family vacations, and even weddings. Your friends won’t understand why you can’t stay out a little later, or hang out on a random Wednesday night (eh, because I have to be at clinicals at 5am). My point is, get them ready for this as much as you are getting yourself ready for it. The sacrifice is huge, but the rewards are so worth it. As the same professor told us after his awkward intro, you can put up with almost anything as long as it’s temporary, and believe it or not, CRNA school is temporary.

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