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Why Am I Teaching Myself Everything???


Do you feel like you are not being taught anything in CRNA school? Have you found yourself wondering why you are teaching yourself all these new principles and theories of anesthesia? Does it seem like your instructors very briefly mention new concepts and then expect you to go home and read long chapters, memorize information, and just “figure it out”? Do you arrive to exam days completely confused and clueless, hoping you studied the right things, hoping they will be asked on the test? Well, you are not alone. I felt this way throughout all of my CRNA program, too. It took me a few years since graduation to finally realize why this way of teaching is so important, and in the long run so beneficial to us as CRNAs.

What would you say is the major difference between a CRNA and an Anesthesiologist?

Years of experience? I would say no. Some CRNAs have practiced much longer than their MDA attendings. Years of patient care? Again, no. Most CRNAs go back to school with several years of ICU and bedside patient care experience, while MDAs begin actual patient care well into their studies. So, what is it that makes MDAs so different than us? I would venture to say, and this is, of course, strictly my opinion, that MDAs have much more “schooling” than us. They get their Bachelor’s degrees, then go to med school, followed by internships, residency, fellowships, etc. If you account for all those years of study, it’s easy to see why some lay people might think that anesthesiologists are better than CRNAs. After all, they went to school for much longer than we did. What most people fail to realize is that anesthesia is a specialty completely different than most others in the medical field. Being a competent anesthesia provider is not directly related to years of study behind a desk, pouring over literature and texts. What makes a good anesthesia provider is years of experience behind the drape, staying calm under pressure, and using critical thinking skills that only come with real experience. This is on the job training at its core.

However, anesthesia also demands constant adaptation. New equipment to get proficient in, advancements in surgical techniques that require us to change our anesthetics, etc. It is extremely important to continue reading, studying and teaching ourselves to stay competent in our careers. Doctors are taught in school to constantly read, research, and make learning a part of their culture. This practice is not so common among nurses. To be honest, for the first two years after CRNA school, I did not pick up a textbook, nor even skimmed an article. I would venture a guess that this is probably true for a majority of new CRNAs. However, to stay relevant in our profession, one has to resume studying at some point. You have to start reading again, and teaching yourself throughout your career to stay good at what you do.

This is why we are made to suffer during school and “teach ourselves everything”. Because, once we begin working, it is up to us to teach ourselves again. If the only major difference between us and an anesthesiologist is that they have more years of school, then it is up to us to fill that gap. After all, reading is free. Pick up a research article, a magazine, even revisit your old textbooks and the information is right there. Use the skills you were forced to learn during school (where to find information and how to study it) to your benefit. Never stop learning, never cease teaching yourself. That is the only way to stay competent, relevant, and competitive in our profession. So, the next time you feel like your professors are barely teaching you anything and forcing you to teach yourself, remember it will make you a much better CRNA in the long run. Happy studying!!!

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