Is the universe telling me not to be a CRNA?

Dear Nurse Beth Advice Column - The following letter submitted anonymously in search for answers. Join the conversation! Nurses Nurse Beth Nursing Q/A


Dear Nurse Beth,

Career Indecision: I'm 43. I came late to nursing after a 15 year administrative career in various fields. When I returned to school with the decision to become an RN, I also decided on my career path. I wanted to become a CRNA. Initially, most things went as planned. I landed a job at a level 2 trauma center ICU after getting my ADN and completed an RN-BSN program during my 1st year with the intent on beginning the application process to CRNA school.

I didn't get in the first 2 years of applying, but year 3 I was accepted. Let me pause to mention that as a middle aged woman, my life comes with certain built-in complexities. I have an established family. I've been married for almost 20 years, and we have 5 children, ranging in age from 21 to 8. My parents are older and are declining, frequently needing more assistance and care.

My 54 year old husband has been out of work/retired/disabled since about 2008, and we've been fighting the disability denial fight for almost 5 years now. When I last applied and was accepted to the CRNA program, the pandemic was not even a thought in my mind (accepted Oct. 2019). I was in the program for one year, and had to withdraw. My parents got Covid, were hospitalized, and now my mom is falling all the time. I'm trying to convince them to get into an independent/assisted living facility, which they don't agree with.

I virtually educated my youngest 2 children though the entire 1st year of the pandemic (my 1st year of school), and discovered that my youngest has ADHD and needs some meds/therapy, etc. My family also appeared to fall apart around me as I was unavailable to organize and navigate as I had in the past. Needless to say I was unable to keep my focus solely on clinicals and withdrew... I am eligible to reapply.

The director will provide me with a letter stating that I was in good standing, etc. Here comes the question: All CRNA programs are now 3 years long as they are DNP programs. Even if I immediately reapply and am accepted to a school, the program start would be 2023 with graduation in 2026 at 48 years old, and a whole mountain of debt. Is it worth it to return? I loved every minute of what I was doing, and want to be there, but my life circumstances don't seem to be helping me complete my dream. Deciding on the alternative route is just as frustrating. Sincerely, in need of some help.

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Specializes in Tele, ICU, Staff Development.

Dear Eligible,

Age-wise, you are definitely young enough to complete your dream. Don't let that be the reason for choosing not to do this. 

This is more about if you can do this with your other demands.

Everything you describe here is just life- not to minimize your situation, but we all have life. Responsibilities, ups and downs, setbacks, wellness, illness.

We also all have varying amounts of determination; one thing I know about nurses is that we have lots of determination! There's no way to get through nursing school on smarts alone, as you know. Look at all you've accomplished thus far.

So you have a dream, you have life responsibilities, you have determination, and you are not too old-now assess your support. Do you have enough support from your friends and family to manage day-to-day issues, such as picking up a child from school when you can't be there? Can your husband take over any of your duties, such as taking your Mom to the doctor?

You withdrew from school once. What will be different this time? The school may even ask you this, so think it through.

I, for one, am rooting for you to complete your CRNA. You have given to everyone else, and it's OK for you to realize your dream. You deserve good things.

Best wishes in your decision,

Nurse Beth