A recent thread on this board reminded me of one I had written on this topic elsewhere. Hopefully, this board will become the place for CRNA’s, SRNA’s and those who hope to join our profession. Therefore, I’d like to repost what I had written earlier, with some updating.

If you are considering applying to CRNA schools, and you are married or otherwise involved in a serious relationship, then this applies to you. The decision to start a CRNA program is not only going to affect you, it WILL affect your significant other as well. As such, before you ever begin the process of application, you must sit down with your significant other and have a long, heart to heart talk about your plans. Frankly, you must have this conversation free of the television, the kids, or any other distractions. Your plans are going to affect not only you, but your family as well. So, what does your “significant other” need to know?

First, becoming a CRNA is a full-time commitment. When you get home from class or clinicals, your day is not yet over. You will have to spend a great deal of time studying, preparing for tests, preparing care plans, looking up questions you didn’t have the answer to today. Because of the commitment involved, schools cannot be “part-time” or “family friendly.” Many school directors will be aware of the family dimension, and will try to make some allowance for that, but in the end, you came to their school to learn anesthesia. The practice of anesthesia is demanding, and learning the art is difficult. You won’t be able to do it on a 9 to 5 basis.

Next, your SO needs to know that you are not going to be able to help much with income. The rigors of anesthesia school are such that you will not be able to work, so you won’t be bringing home the paychecks you have both grown accustomed to. There are loans available, and nearly all students have to take advantage of them to some degree or another. Even so, your lifestyle is going to be crimped.

Next, you and your SO must understand that as well as being mentally taxing, anesthesia school is emotionally draining. You must allow for that, and decide now that you are going to have to do what you can while in school to be there for your SO. Sometimes, you will have to put the books aside, and take them out to dinner and a movie, or whatever is special to you all. Believe me, there will be times you will have to force yourself to do this. And whenever you have a spare second or two, (like in bed, just before going to sleep) remind yourself that you could not be doing this without someone else's support. Let your SO know that you know that. At the same time, remind them how you really feel about them. Reassurance helps. But, your SO must understand that the emotional stress on you has greatly increased, and you could benefit from a little lower demand at home.

Finally, both of you need to see the light at the end of the tunnel. If you can hang together for this relatively short time, there will be great rewards at the other end. Of course, you will be far better off financially, but there are great intangible benefits as well. The increased personal satisfaction you feel as a nurse anesthetist will spill over into your home life. Most CRNA’s will tell you they come home at the end of the day far happier than they ever did as a staff nurse. If you have children, you will have options for them that you might never have had otherwise. In short, if anesthesia is really what you want, the rewards at the end of school easily outweigh the two or three years of financial, emotional, and physical challenges you will face.

Kevin McHugh