Why I Became a CRNA

Joseph Pellegrini, DNP, PhD, MSN, CRNA

  • Apr 11, 2016

CRNA Since 1990

Joseph PellegrinFollowing my graduation from Anaconda Senior High School in Anaconda, Mont., in 1976 I decided to join the U.S. Navy where I served as a corpsman for about four years. As an enlisted corpsman, I was primarily used in support of the U.S. Marines and did multiple deployments.
During these times, I was introduced to multiple CRNAs who worked with the U.S. Marines, Special Forces, and on aircraft carriers. Seeing the level of expertise and the respect they garnered from everyone first sparked my interest.
I then went on to attend nursing school with the express purpose of becoming a CRNA. Following my graduation from nursing school, I re-entered the U.S. Navy and was fortunate enough to be selected for the nurse anesthesia program at George Washington University where I was awarded a BS in Nurse Anesthesia in 1990.
Following my graduation from GWU, I was immediately deployed to Saudi Arabia in support of Operation Desert Storm/Desert Shield with the 1st Marine Division. I was one of two CRNAs assigned to Surgical Company Bravo and was deployed in the Gulf for approximately six months.

Following my return from Saudi Arabia, I was stationed in Charleston, S.C., and Keflavik, Iceland. The Navy then sent me back to school at Rush University where, over the next several years, I was able to acquire a Master of Science in Nursing, a Doctor of Nursing Practice and a PhD, all at the Navy's expense. My next tours of duties included working with the Navy nurse anesthesia program where I served as a research coordinator initially at Portsmouth Naval Hospital in Portsmouth, Va., followed by a job as the director of research in Bethesda, Md. I ended up serving a total of 28 years in the Navy and retired in 2008 at the rank of Captain. Following my military retirement, I assumed my current role as program director at the University of Maryland, Baltimore.
When I think back as to the one area that is most gratifying about being a CRNA, I would say that doing clinical practice and my job as an educator and researcher brings me the most joy. Every day that I get to work with CRNAs and students in the classroom and clinical setting is a great experience. Working as a CRNA is a privilege and an honor that is highly valued by all who work in this profession. I have never met a CRNA who did not truly love their job, and this in itself tells you volumes about the profession as a whole. I can honestly say that making that choice many years ago to pursue nurse anesthesia was the best choice I have made in my life thus far.
I would suggest that if you are considering nurse anesthesia, you should shadow a CRNA and ask them about the profession. Other ways that you can find out about the profession are to attend college information sessions, go to workshops or attend nurse anesthesia meetings. These venues will provide you with a vast amount of information and help clear up any doubts you may have about entering the greatest profession in healthcare.