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Suggested Schools?

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by SouthALRN SouthALRN (New) New

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I have been an RN for 2 years now. I did a little over a year on a cardiac floor and I've been working in a Surgical-Trauma ICU for 9 months now. I'm looking at applying to CRNA school within the next 6 months and have been researching some realistic options in my area. I was wondering if anyone had any experience or thoughts about some of the prospective schools I was looking at, or any suggestions for CRNA schools that you would recommend. From what I've heard and researched, most programs are going towards a DNP program over a MSN, and not all schools have made that transition so that's definitely a factor.

University of North Florida

Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center

University of Southern Mississippi

UPMC Hamot and Gannon University

University of Alabama at Birmingham

Samford University

UAB and Samford are both in-state, so I feel like I almost have to give them some kind of consideration even though they are MSN programs. I have heard though that they can kind of be a "have to know someone" kind of programs to get into.

Hamot and Gannon is also an MSN program, but my Uncle recently graduated from there within the past 5 years so again, I feel like it deserves at least some thought.

One of my drawbacks about USM is how new the program is. I don't know if anyone has any experience with their CRNA program, but I've worked with people who went through their BSN program and were not impressed.

LSU and UNF are my top choices at this point based on overall programs and requirements. Like I said, some of this is research and some of this is hearsay. I would greatly appreciate any input anyone has on any of the above mentioned program, as well as any suggestions.

Thanks!

SouthALRN

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Hello SouthALRN. I am currently an SRNA at UAB, I know lots of people in Samford's program, and one of my best friends is in Southern Miss's program. I also came from a trauma ICU background. Based on numbers, UAB tends to like trauma experience as much as cardiac. There are 6 or 7 of us just in my class. I figure I could be of some help to you. You didn't ask many specific questions so I will address what I can from your post and if you have any other questions, just let me know.

I did not have any connections or "know the right person" to help me get into UAB. In fact, even my references were pretty weak. I was nervous about that but it didn't make a difference. In reality, that factor probably does play a little role at all CRNA schools, but I can assure you it doesn't at UAB any more than it would at any other school. UAB is already transitioning to the DNP but the complete doctorate curriculum and degree won't be offered until around 2019-2020ish. My cohort is going to be taking a couple of DNP classes that will roll into an MSN to DNP bridge program after we graduate. Of course, I personally don't have a desire to ever get my DNP so that makes no difference to me.

Ill just give you my general view of UAB and you can respond with specific questions.

* The program is difficult. But that is the nature of CRNA school. If someone told me their program was not difficult, I would worry about their level of preparedness to be a practicing CRNA. Everyone I have talked to in the classes ahead of me say that they feel/felt adequately prepared in clinical/post graduation, and that was very important to me when choosing a school.

* UAB is a front loaded program. When I was "school shopping," I thought I would like an integrated program better. Now that I see what CRNA school is all about, I definitely prefer front loaded.

* We just got a new program director from Rush University in Chicago and though she hasn't lectured us yet, I can say that she is very friendly and I fully believe she will carry the program in the right direction.

* I don't know exactly where you currently live but UAB has multiple satellite campuses, some of which are in South Alabama. This is something that could very much benefit you and definitely worth looking into. If you aren't familiar with what satellite campuses are, let me know and I can explain it in better detail.

I will address some rumors I had heard (or read) about UAB while I was researching schools because these were things that almost made me not want to go to UAB and they are, for the most part, untrue.

* I heard that UAB's program was not student friendly. This is completely untrue. I love all of my CRNA-specific instructors. They are indeed very student friendly, all with a very "open door" policy. (We also have instructors from other departments for general classes like gross anatomy, biochemistry, physics, etc... but I have had positive experiences with them too.)

* I heard that UAB's program was unorganized. Unfortunately, this is going to be the case to some extent at any major University. But the problems at UAB are not within the CRNA program itself. It is more of a disconnect between the massive UAB School of Nursing which is "over" the CRNA program as well as the NP programs and all the other graduate nursing programs. Either way, this hasn't affected my education in any negative way.

* I heard that UAB students had to compete with anesthesia residents for cases and that made it difficult to have solid clinical experience. UAB Hospital is a teaching hospital so this will occur to a small extent while we are in rotations at UAB-H. However, UAB-H is one of many hospitals in Birmingham that we rotate through. As a disclaimer, I haven't started the clinical phase of the program yet so I can't give an opinion on this; but, I do have 2 good friends in the class ahead of me that say it hasn't been an issue yet for them. One of them has even said that they like UAB Hospital the best out of all the places they have rotated through. But I digress.

I can probably answer some general questions about Samford too because I have a few friends in their program and I too looked into going there. They have an excellent reputation all-a-around. I also have a best friend at Southern Miss. If I knew she wouldn't kill me for giving her personal info to an internet stranger, I would put you in touch with her. But instead, if you have questions about USM, just post them and I can text or email them to her.

-Cheers!

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Traumaguy8,

Thanks so much for responding! I had posted this back in December and got exactly zero responses so I figured reposting it was a shot in the dark, but you gave me some great information! I had initially put UAB as an option on the backburner because I was a little intimidated from what I heard about how super competitive it was. But hearing what you have to say about the program gives me a little bit of hope!

The nursing program I graduated from had a very large class, and I didn't get to know many of my instructors personally. If I emailed them today asking for a reference, they would probably raise their eyebrow and ask who the heck I was. What sort of references does UAB look for, besides nursing instructors? Coworkers? Managers? Would they accept one from a CRNA I've shadowed?

What are satellite campuses? Are they like a home base where you can do clinicals outside of Birmingham? I'm currently located in Mobile, AL.

Thanks for the input. I don't have a ton of questions currently. I'm still in the early stages of researching and shadowing, but from what I saw about the admission process, it starts early. Any additional information would be appreciated.

Thanks again!

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Once I got squared away with school, I quit getting on here mostly for lack of time but I got on here today to post a question about something in class and I saw your post. I remember being sad when I could never find people on here with info about the schools I was looking into so I was compelled to respond and then ended up writing a book, haha...

As far as being intimidated by UAB, I wouldn't be. My class had around 200 applicants and they interviewed around 60 and accepted 31. But don't let those numbers scare you because apparently, a lot of those 200 don't even meet the minimum requirements and those applications get thrown out immediately. And also the satellite components are included in those numbers (which I explain later in this post.) Like I said, they like trauma ICU experience. They accept multiple trauma ICU ppl every year. As far as stats go, if you want to post yours I can give you an analysis using what I know about mine and my classmates. If that's a personal thing, I understand and will give you mine for reference.

Overall GPA: 3.54

Science GPA: 3.85

GRE: 305 (new grading scale) ~1160 (old scale)

BLS, ACLS... no CCRN (although it does look really good to have it)

7yrs trauma/burn ICU experience; Lead nurse for 3.5 yrs

References: 2 of my charge nurses and a CRNA I used to work with before he went to school at Samford (so no connections).

What Ive gathered from hearing my classmates stats and what my instructors (the people who interview and decide acceptance) say:

*Though a 4.0 overall looks great, they put a lot more weight on science GPA.

*My stats seem to be in the middle of my class except for my experience. 7 years in a high acuity ICU is on the high end of experience in my class. Most ppl are between 2-4 years.

*The interview can seriously make or break you. If you have a lower end GPA or GRE, and/or lower end experience but rock the interview, you are likely getting in. And vice versa.

*References- Don't worry about getting a reference from a past instructor for UAB. They don't require it and it would be the least impressive of all the options anyways. They require 3 and if I remember the application correctly, they require 1 of those to be from a supervisor/charge nurse and 1 from an anesthesia provider (MDA/CRNA). The 3rd can be whoever, (instructor, nurse manager, charge nurse, attending physician at your hospital). I think the more in depth and truthful a reference looks is the most important thing. For ex; I worked with one of my charge nurse references for 7 yrs and she had been doing my unit evaluations for the last 4 years and I knew very well how she felt about my abilities and work ethic. I would say her in-depth reference would weigh more than some random anesthesiologist who only wrote a few generic sentences.

Satellite campuses: Unfortunately, as far as I know there isn't one in Mobile for UAB. They are in Tuscaloosa, Montgomery, Dothan, Huntsville, and Jackson, MS. The way UAB's program is set up, the whole first 3 semesters (entire first year) is all didactic, meaning classes 4-5 days a weak on campus in Bham with no clinicals at all. Starting the 4th semester till graduation, It is mostly clinicals with one online class a semester. This allows the people who were accepted into the satellite campuses to move back to their home cities and finish the rest of the program there doing all their clinical rotations at the hospitals in their hometown and classes online.

I know that sounds confusing so I will give you an example. I was accepted into the Birmingham component so just like everybody else in the class, I will be in birmingham for the entire first year doing nothing but taking classes. Because I am in the Bham component, I will also stay here for clinicals and rotate through hospitals in bham. However, my classmate is from montgomery and he got accepted into the montgomery componant. He had to move to bham for this first year but once the clinical phase starts in July, he will move back to montgomery and do all his clinicals at montgomery hospitals bc the classes are online from that point on. The benefits to these satellite campuses is that A.) you only have to move to bham for 1 year instead of 27 months, and B.) when you apply to a particular satellite component, you are only competing with people who are also applying to that satellite component which ups your chances a little bit because less people apply to those compared to birmingham component.

You can still apply to a satellite campus if you wanted to to possible increase your odds but that would entail you moving to birmingham for the first year and then to whatever city the satellite component you applied to was for the other 17 months.

Any other questions just let me know...

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I want to say that there are some other schools that do have satellite campuses in Mobile. Maybe LSU and Texas Wesleyan, or maybe it was Texas Christian... Can't remember for sure. They may or may not be set up like UAB's but Worth checking out either way...

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Seriously, I appreciate the book!

My GPA was about average. I didn't study as hard as I probably should have in nursing school. I think my final GPA after prereqs and nursing was over was a 3.39. I'm studying for my GRE now so I don't have those scores to go off of. And I've got almost a year experience in the ICU, so it's looking like I would have to nail my interview. Which I've heard horror stories about. Is the interview process really as bad as everyone says it is? I've heard 2 different extremes from "Why do you want to be a CRNA?" to "Draw the Krebs cycle."

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That is not as bad of a GPA as you think it is. Especially if your science GPA is higher. I would guess that around the time you start applying, you will have about 1.5 - 2 years experience. That won't necessarily hurt you, but it won't necessarily help you. But you can't change that so don't worry about it. There are many people in my class that had around 2 years experience when they started school. As far as the interview goes, I'm going to copy/paste my response to a similar question from somebody else on here but Ill also answer your specific questions first.

I was never asked why I wanted to be a CRNA but I highly suggest you be prepared to answer that one. I included this in my personal statement in the application. I can't imagine anyone asking to draw the Krebs cycle. We covered it in biochem last semester and I still couldn't regurgitate it in specifics. My first interview was at the University of South Carolina and honestly, it was kind of a nightmare. I was super nervous because I didn't know what to expect. I had read on this site that they used to be heavy on the personality questions and overall laid back. Well, they grilled the hell out of me on clinical questions and though I thought I did well on most of those, there were a couple that I stumbled around on that I think made me look bad. Either way, it was great experience because it helped me have an idea of what to expect in the future and I wasn't near as nervous in the UAB interview. UAB's interview was a mix between clinical/personality. I can't say anything more specific than that because when you interview, they make you sign a thing saying you won't discuss questions. But heres my advice from the other post:

Interviews: Be confident, but not cocky. Different schools have different interview styles but the 2 schools I interviewed at had personality/get to know you type questions and clinical scenario segments. I didn't prep for the clinical scenario because I had 7 yrs of experience in learning everything I possibly could about hemodynamics, ventilators, ABGs, vasoactive drips, antiarrhythmics, etc... But if you are weak in those areas, those are what you should get familiar with. Even if you don't take the CCRN (I didn't) you should use CCRN review books as a study guide for clinical type interview questions. I didn't know how to prep for the personality questions until after the first interview. Basically, If you don't know the answer to something, say so. Don't stumble around trying to come up with something. If they ask you a question along the lines of "Have you ever made a mistake as a nurse and if so, tell me about it?" then the answer is yes and be honest, or make something up. The interviewers don't judge you for making a mistake (all nurses do at some point), they want to know how you corrected the situation.

* (What should I focus on as a bedside nurse to prepare for CRNA school?) Focus on hemodynamics and everything that affects it (drugs, monitoring, normal values, abnormal values and what causes them, etc..). Not only will it likely come up in an interview, but CRNA school will take you down into the trenches of hemodynamics.

One way I practiced for clinical type questions (and it came in handy) was by imagining a typical acute patient that I would see in my unit and go through what we would do for them and why. For ex, 30ish yo GSW to the abdomen who just came to us from the OR with an ex-lap, small bowel repair, and a splenectomy. I imagine VS changes, tell myself why they changed, and how I would treat them. Ex, tackycardic and hypotensive. Hypotensive from hypovolemia associated with the blood loss and the tackycardia is reflexive to the hypotension. I would bolus 1-2 L of IVF (LR or NS depending on their lactic acid and electrolyte levels). If their blood pressure didn't respond appropriately, I would start a pressor (norepi was my units first choice). If they continued to have problems with there BP, I would consider some kind of hemodynamic monitoring (Swan, lidco, flow track). Then I walk myself through some examples of hemodynamic numbers and why they might be what they are and what would I do to treat them. For ex. if their CO/CI/SV were all low then you know the heart isn't pumping effectively and the patient would need a positive inotrope like milrinone or dobutamine. If the SVR is low then you know they are vasodilated and could benefit from adding another pressor. If their cvp and wedge pressures were low then you know they are likely still hypovolemic and might need another IVF bolus or their continuous rate turned up some. And I would do this with all kinds of scenarios. What would I do if a mechanically ventilated patient's ABG came back looking like this or that? Or what would I do if a patient goes into A-fib with RVR? Would I electrically cardiovert them if they had chronic a-fib? Would I give a hypotensive patient with a history of heart failure a fluid bolus?

When I was running those scenarios through my head, if I hit a wall or didn't know the answer to one of my questions, I would google it and read research articles on the topic. I actually enjoyed doing that though. Most people probably see it as tedious.

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After reading back through my post, I see that I got caught up rambling and forgot to say why doing the imaginary scenarios are helpful for clinical type interview questions. It's helpful bc typically the interviewers are going to be rational and keep the clinical questions related to your experience in terms of pt population. So they might began the clinical segment by asking you to describe a typical patient from your unit. Then they might tell you, "Ok, let's say that patient begins to [insert change in VS or lab value], then what would you do?" You give your answer and based on whatever your answer is, they may give you another change related to your intervention... and so on until you are stumped. Don't worry about being stumped and don't ramble out some rubbish. These people know an insane amount about what they're asking you and I promise you they would rather you say "I don't know" than some gibberish that looks like you're questioning their intelligence.

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