September 21st, 2011
By Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN
After spending a few years working in nursing management, Donna Boyd, CRNA, says she felt hands-on care calling her back. She returned to working in a hospital in Critical Care in the Trauma ICU at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia. While there she also returned to the classroom, earning her master's degree in nurse anesthesia.
Why did you pick nurse anesthesia when you decided to pursue an advanced degree?
"I wanted to be a more independent practitioner. Penn really promoted education and nursing independence and helped build my critical thinking skills—I felt well rounded. I had learned a lot about airway and hemodynamics while in the ICU and I wanted to become more involved in the process. I felt like I wanted more respect and I wanted to get to another level in my nursing career. There is a level of independence you get as a CRNA you just don't have as a nurse on the floor."
Boyd has been a nurse since 1984. She earned her BSN, worked as a floor nurse, and then turned to dialysis after developing an interest during her senior year of nursing school. She worked inpatient, outpatient and acute care dialysis then moved into administration.
"I've been a CRNA for 11 years now. I do a bit of everything: OR, cath lab, GI lab, outpatient services. I like outpatient work. The in and out every day, moving cases through: it really makes you increase your efficiency."
I understand you were a traveling CRNA for a while, what was that like?
"There's an element of "you're on your own" when you are a traveler. You are pretty much thrown out on the floor as soon as you arrive. The job itself is never that different; you have a patient, you have the same drugs, the machines all work more-or-less alike. It's more about the people. A lot of places lean pretty hard on their travelers. They are trying to relieve their own people, relieve shortages. You often get the short end of the stick.
"Being a traveler builds your confidence; you have to learn to trust yourself, rely on yourself. I was really up for the adventure of being a traveler; you know…I was working to live, not living to work. There were so many places I wanted to see. "
As part of her adventuring spirit and wanting to be a bigger part of the process, Donna volunteers for medical mission work.
What are the challenges peculiar to mission work?
"Lack of resources. I'm comfortable now working with limited supplies because I have been doing it for a while now. Again, you have to have confidence, especially with limited resources. You often start with a plan, then go to plan B, then plan C. And, you really don't know a lot about your patients. You don't know if they have asthma, kidney problems or anything else. Our patients have very inaccurate histories and physicals."
What would you tell other nurses who are considering a career as a nurse anesthetist?
"Be ready for the level of responsibility you will have. That patient is solely mine. You have to focus and be responsible for that life.
"We think about the money and the travel and the career advancement being a CRNA affords you. It is seen as a good investment. And, you do get paid back and paid well, but that is because of the extreme level of responsibility."