CRNAs Helping Anesthesia Students Grow Professionally

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Nurses Eat Their Young

Anyone who has ever attempted to learn something new knows how intimidating and stressful it can be. It is normal to fear the unknown, and even shy away from opportunities because they appear to be too much of a challenge. There is a saying, “Nurses eat their young.” This is fairly common, and has become the standard it seems like. We should be more concentrated on building up new anesthesia residents instead of trying to scare them to death. Ultimately our goal should be to help them become great CRNAs, so that they can give their patients the best care possible. This starts with CRNAs being good mentors for these residents while they are in CRNA school.

Mentoring as a CRNA

I am a CRNA at a hospital that receives nurse anesthesia residents from multiple CRNA schools. Every year a new group comes to us to learn the clinical portion of their anesthesia program. We have a pretty good system for helping them get oriented to the OR and start improving their clinical skills. In order to teach them effectively there are 3 important factors that must be a part of any teaching institution. Below is a list of topics that can really help a new anesthesia student grow and succeed in this great profession.

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1 – Use CRNAs That Enjoy Teaching

It is a fact that some people enjoy teaching more than others. When someone takes satisfaction in helping others learn it makes them a better teacher. I can truly say that I love sharing my knowledge with residents who are eager to learn. It is very rewarding to watch them grow each day, and ultimately become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist. It is just like anything else in life, if you enjoy what you are doing you will most likely become very good at it. Take playing the piano for example, if a child is forced to learn how to play with no real passion for it, then odds are they will only become an average pianist. However, if you take a child who really enjoys it, they will practice without being asked, put forward more effort, and continue their passion even if they are no longer required to do it.

This idea carries over to teaching new CRNA students. Students should be placed with CRNAs who have a genuine interest in mentoring these students. The environment will be conducive to learning and help the RRNA grow professionally. With that said it is important to avoid placing anesthesia students with nurse anesthetists that dislike teaching. These CRNAs will not provide a good learning environment, and could actually cause the student to regress in their educational growth.

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2 – Good Nurse Anesthetists Don’t Give You All the Answers

It is common knowledge that when a student starts the clinical portion of their nurse anesthesia program they will be “PIMPED” by the CRNAs. This stands for “Put In My Place.” This sounds bad, but it is a vital component to teaching anesthesia residents. When a student is “PIMPED” they are asked anesthesia related questions by the CRNA. This serves a couple of purposes. The first being it helps asses the residents current level of knowledge on things like drug dosages, pharmacology, anatomy, physiology, etc. Every student coming into clinical should have a certain foundation of knowledge that was formed in the didactic portion of CRNA school. The weaker students will be identified, and special steps can be taken to help them catch up to the stronger students.

If I ask a question that the resident is unable to answer, then I will expect them to research the question on their own, and have the correct answer the next day. Secondly, it helps remind the residents that they don’t know everything, and that they still have a lot to learn. You can always count on there being one person in the group that feels like they are above everyone else and already know it all. These student scan be very difficult to teach if the behavior isn’t corrected. Asking them questions that they are unable to answer helps deflate the ego a little bit and makes them more susceptible to learning.

3 – Positive Reinforcement Goes a Long Way

Most if not all CRNAs and CRNA students have very “type A” personalities. Every one of us wants to do the best job possible, and we can be very hard on ourselves if  we struggle to learn something. This is why negative reinforcement must be avoided when evaluating the residents progress. Telling the students what they did well on will help balance them out when they are shown something that they struggled with. If a good balance is kept between telling them what they did right vs what they did wrong, then they will enjoy their time in clinical and keep working hard everyday. If these 3 tips are used by CRNAs when teaching anesthesia residents we will continue to have excellent well trained anesthesia providers in our hospitals. Just remember we were all in their shoes at one time, and we to had to earn our stripes.

John Keith | CRNA Career Pro
Chief CRNA

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5 Responses to “CRNAs Helping Anesthesia Students Grow Professionally”

  1. I love your first tip the best. It speaks to what I teach- figure out your strengths and use them to pull you forward. In this case of mentorship, it’s wonderful to tap into those people who are good at this skill and allow them to use their gifts. Great article, sharing!

  2. John. I learned so much from your post. “Pimped” is quite interesting. Positive reinforcement is so vital to learning. Particularly to nurses who want to perform their best. I like that you mention some people like to mentor. We need to remember that not everyone like mentoring. Some see it as an extra burden and more unnecessary work. We need to thank the nurses who are willing to mentor others. Great post!

  3. Hi John,
    Great post…Agree totally. Good faculty/preceptors/mentors don’t give all the answers. Finding the answer for yourself is part of the learning.
    Must admit…I learned a new meaning for “PIMPED”!!!
    Keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks for this thoughtful piece, John. I studied philosophy long befoe becoming a nurse: I’m attuned to logical clarity by habit. We often confuse one value with another, especially under stress. Giving people what they need, what you want to offer them, and what they want to be given are three entirely different matters, often confused or conflated, at great human cost. It’ good, heartening really, to see such strong evidence of a nurse keeping the three in proper order to the best of his ability. Thanks.

  5. I think it is very important as you outlined to find a nurse that enjoys teaching. I have had far too many preceptors and mentors that were doing it to fulfill a requirement in our ladder program. It does not benefit either party involved unless both the mentor and mentee are in the process together because they want to be! I love the PIMPED analogy, we all need to be put in our place more often than we are!!

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