Will ECMO hurt or help my chances of CRNA school?

by Nurse Beth Nurse Beth, MSN (Columnist) Educator Columnist Innovator Expert Nurse

Specializes in Med Surg, Tele, ICU, Ortho. Has 30 years experience.

Dear Nurse Beth,

I have the unforeseeable dilemma of which job do I pursue? I have a travel nursing recruiter that I had contacted a couple months ago about possibly taking a travel assignment over the Summer, who now has a high paying assignment in Connecticut for ICU. I also have a local hospital calling me about a 12 month contract to become an ECMO specialist. My long term goals are to become a CRNA. I have been an ICU nurse for 4 years now. My question is do you think a CRNA program would favor ECMO specialist or travel nursing ICU experience?

Dear Dilemma,

ECMO stands for extracorporeal membrane oxygenation and it provides oxygen to patients whose heart and lungs are severely damaged. It's a life-sustaining treatment for patients who are critically ill. Basically it serves as an artificial external lung.

It takes several weeks of specialized training and strong critical care skills. CRNA schools require ICU experience of their applicants, and ECMO is specialized intensive care. Some ECMO skills are directly translatable to anesthesia, such as closely monitoring oxygenation.

You would go into the program ahead of the game, knowledge-wise.

The admissions panel could see ECMO as valuable experience provided they were familiar with the procedure, and it may even gain you points. It would be dependent on the reviewer, but it's safe to say it would not hurt your application, and may help you to stand out.

One of my colleagues, a Critical Care Educator, feels ECMO plus your current experience will give you an edge.

Best wishes,

Nurse Beth