CRNA Career Path: 5 Day Planning Challenge

Planning for CRNA can be overwhelming and sometimes even leave you feeling defeated. CSPA's mission is to prevent that from happening! I have outlined a 5-Day Challenge to help you map out your CRNA career path. I encourage you to take this outline one day at a time, allowing ample time to reflect upon each step.


Day 1- What's Your Elephant?

We all have something that may potentially (or openly) be holding us back from taking the next step to pursue CRNA. Do you doubt yourself and your abilities? Do you wonder if you're smart enough to become a CRNA? Are you worried about being too old to go back for CRNA or juggling a family while in school? Financial worries, concerns about whether you have enough ICU experience, fear of failure, or worse yet- basing your expectations on horror stories you've heard from others - can all potentially cause you to stop yourself from pursuing your goals before you even let yourself really get started.

I encourage you to face your elephant head-on. Start taking active steps to overcome or combat this potential problem. Whatever is creating these feelings of doubt, fear, anxiety, and nervousness, you need to address it. Whether it's working with a financial planner, working on your mindset, or meeting with a mentor, addressing these fears and doubts upfront is crucial to ensuring long-term success.

Day 2- What's Your Why?

This step is perhaps one of the single most important things you can do to ensure you make it all the way to graduation day: What is your "why"? When the going gets hard ... WHY are you doing it?! This has to evoke a spark, a passion, and goosebumps... this determination within you will allow you to push through the hard times. This is not all fluff; this is crucial to having the motivation to push through the frustrations you may experience along the way.

Your true "why" is rooted in your driving force. What is pushing you to go back for CRNA? This will vary from person to person; are you excited about the skills of a CRNA? A better work-life balance and flexibility in your schedule? More decision-making authority? The ability to work part-time and still make a good income? The possibilities are endless. What is most important is that you dig deep until you find those goosebumps.

Once you've found it, frame your WHY! Place it on your desk, or somewhere you'll see it regularly. Remind yourself daily why you are pushing in pursuit of CRNA!

Day 3- What is Your Game Plan?

FACT: Hint- Building a full plan takes time

One month at a time, one week at a time, one day at a time. Baby steps will help prevent overwhelm from setting in. A few things that you'll want to include in your plan are the following, but certainly not limited to these alone: experience post-nursing school graduation (or recent experience if you've been a nurse for a while). CRNA programs are very specific and varied in the type of ICU experience they require, the acuity level of your unit and the types of patients you see, plus the length of time and how recently you need to have had the experience.

That leads us to the next thing to keep in mind, have you started researching your programs? Do you know what schools you're interested in, and have you started researching their requirements? While most programs are more concerned about acuity levels instead of specific ICUs, there are certain units that they will not accept as experience; some are "on an individual basis," and again, these vary. Doing your research will help minimize any missteps or delays in applying to your program due to needing to get more ICU experience.

While researching, you can also find out requirements such as CCRN or GRE. Do they require shadowing experience, leadership experience, or prerequisite courses? Another hint -- if a program "recommends" something, you should treat that as a requirement in order to be the most competitive applicant! Remember, these programs receive hundreds of applications for what can sometimes be just 15-30 seats in a cohort; making your plan to be the most competitive applicant you can be will prove beneficial in the long run!

Day 4- What is Your Fear?

Fear is your #1 enemy in your CRNA journey! Fear can stop you in your tracks. Facing your fears is vital to your success. Determine what your fear is-- are you afraid of failing? Are you afraid of not being able to handle the rigors of clinicals? Have you been out of school for several years, and you're nervous about being a student again? It's important that you determine what your fear is-- and then get down to the root cause of where it comes from so you can overcome it.

The process might look something like this: "I've been out of school for 10 years. I'm fearful of being a student again." Ask yourself, "Why am I fearful of this?". Maybe your answer is that you're nervous about being in a learning environment again and being successful in it. Then, challenge that fear! Perhaps sign up for a course that will allow you to be in the learning environment again and prove to yourself that you can be a student again.

Day 5- What Does Success Feel Like?

In order to achieve need to be familiar with it; not that you need to have experienced it in real life but be familiar with it IN YOUR MIND! This powerful visualization tool will allow you to take the necessary action to ensure your success. The sooner you start the process of visualizing success and what it feels like, the better you'll be able to overcome hurdles along your path to becoming a CRNA.

When visualizing success- you need to determine what that means to you and, more importantly, how you feel when you think of what that means. For example, if success to you means gaining acceptance into your dream program, ask yourself how that will make you feel. However, rather than saying "happy" and simply labeling it as that and moving on, this is where you need to spend time physically feeling that feeling. When you experience emotions, your body has a physical reaction that goes along with that emotion. Perhaps your heart rate increases, you get goosebumps or a surge of endorphins makes you smile so much it hurts; that's what you need to feel during this visualization practice.

Similar to a "runner's high" that allows people to complete marathons, this practice of feeling those endorphins and successfully reaching your goal will allow you to push past any roadblocks to achieving that success.

Remember, your journey to CRNA is unique and is your own. My hope is this 5-Day Planning Challenge will help you feel empowered and confident as you start to make your way to making your CRNA dreams come true!

Cheers to your future, CRNA; you've got this! 🙌

Jenny Finnell is a practicing CRNA & the founder of CRNA School Prep Academy. Our mission is to help you gain acceptance, plug you into the community and support you all the way through graduation day. CRNA School Prep Academy has mentored over 1,000 aspiring CRNA’s, who are now successful students in programs across the country!

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