Why I Became a CRNA

Laura L. Ardizzone, DNP, CRNA, ACNP, DCC

  • Jun 4, 2013

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Laura L. Ardizzone, DNP, CRNA, ACNP, DCC
Chief Nurse Anesthetist Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, New York, N.Y.
New York State Association of Nurse Anesthetists, Elected Board Member
AANA Peer Assistance Advisors Committee Member
CRNA since 2004

I remember getting off the school bus to go to my volunteer job as a candy striper. I knew then that I wanted to be a nurse, doctor, PA, NP, Dietitian, OT, or PT – basically I needed to narrow it down! After learning firsthand the multiple roles that nurses play in patient care, I decided that nursing was the right fit for me.
In my senior year of nursing school at the University of Pennsylvania, I spent several days in the operating room at Children’s Hospital of Pennsylvania. At the head of the bed was a poised, brilliant, level headed and well-spoken woman who was delivering anesthesia. I thought to myself – “How can I have that job?” Imagine my surprise when she told me she was a CRNA! I filed that information in my head and went about the normal process during my final year of nursing school - nursing externship and then I accepted a job on a thoracic surgery floor at Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

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Dr. Ardizzone teaching at Columbia University,
where she has spent the past seven years

It was while I was a new charge nurse on the night shift that I encountered another CRNA – my future boss, Mr. Charles Fisher, CRNA. My patient was rapidly decompensating and needed to be intubated. We called for a respiratory code and Mr. Fisher showed up. He was confident, capable, stress free and calmed us all down. I said thank you “Doctor” and he replied “I’m a CRNA." At that point I was sold. I needed to be a CRNA!
I then went on to a Surgical/Trauma ICU in New York City where I stayed for several years, and then continued my education at Columbia University School of Nursing. Shortly after I graduated I went back to Memorial Sloan Kettering for a job as a CRNA to work for Mr. Fisher, CRNA. I was also offered the opportunity to teach a course at Columbia and was mentored by Tim Lehey, CRNA, and Maribeth Massie, CRNA.
I began to take on more responsibility, and, for seven years, acted as both the clinical director and an assistant professor at Columbia. During that time, I also received my Doctor of Nursing Practice degree. After about another seven years, I left Columbia and worked for a pharmaceutical company for a year or so. This past January I came home to my old stomping ground where I started as a nurse – Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center, and took over as the Chief CRNA.
As a nurse and as a CRNA you can really do anything. I have provided direct patient care, lectured both didactically and clinically, worked for a drug company, conducted research, lectured nationally and internationally and now am an administrator. I never planned on my career path and I am not any more talented than any other CRNA out there - all of us are capable of doing many different things. However I have some secrets of success that I will share.

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Dr. Ardizzone, on a medical mission trip in Ecuador,
delivers anesthesia to a pediatric patient with one
of her senior students

1) Find a mentor or mentors and then cultivate and honor those relationships. Your professional career develops and
changes over time and everyone you have met and worked with over the years can teach you something.
2) It is a small anesthesia community – always treat people with respect, you never know if that clinical preceptor will end up being your boss or your colleague one day.
3) From the student days, to new CRNA, to seasoned expert always behave like a CRNA with whom you would want to work. First impressions are hard to do over and will leave a lasting impression on colleagues.
Being a CRNA has been rewarding and exciting. Every day there is a new opportunity and even sometimes a new challenge.
I am humbled that patients put their lives in my hands every day and I don’t take that for granted.
I am lucky to have found some great CRNA mentors and hope to continue to pay it forward.