Why I Became a CRNA

Michael Rieker, DNP, CRNA, FAAN

  • Feb 12, 2014

 CRNA since 1994

Michael RiekerI decided to become a CRNA in an unexpected way. I was working in a very busy surgical/trauma Intensive Care Unit (ICU), at Parkland Hospital, and I loved it. I loved dealing with pharmacology, with the technology of monitors and other devices we had in the ICU, and with mechanical ventilation. The marriage of physiology, pharmacology, and lots of hands-on skills was very enjoyable to me. However, I wanted to have more responsibility, more autonomy, and to perform at a higher level of commitment and achievement. I had my sights set on a master’s degree in trauma nursing and a future in flight nursing, which would have taken me back to my roots in pre-hospital care. One day, an anesthesia resident was taking my only patient to the OR, and he teasingly encouraged me not to “sit on my butt” while my patient was gone, but to accompany them to surgery. I did, and my life changed forever.
The spread of 10 syringes of different medications poised for immediate selection and use on the anesthesia cart immediately caught my eye. The attending anesthesiologist, Edward R. Johnson, (“ERJ,” as he was commonly known) took the time to explain to me all that they were doing. He described the different medications, including a strange milky-looking “newer drug” that he was going to use to put the patient to sleep. I was enamored with the medications and equipment. ERJ had rigged an air-filled 250ml IV bag to a pressure transducer and secured the patient’s hand around it. With the nerve stimulator on that same arm, he could produce a rudimentary representation of the twitch height on the monitor. Pharmacology, patient care, and gadgets: I was quickly falling in love.
Most of all, I was totally fascinated by the power the anesthesia providers had over patient physiology. I was dumbfounded to watch the patient undergo an intra-abdominal procedure with barely a blip in their vital signs, and then spring back to consciousness, seemingly unaware of the incredible insult that they had just endured. The ability to manipulate the consciousness and physiology in that way seemed nothing short of magical to me. I was absolutely intrigued, and I wanted to possess the same power.
The decision to become a CRNA is one of the best I have ever made. I have worked in settings as diverse as large academic medical centers to small, single-CRNA hospitals and offices, and everything in between. I have had the opportunity to work in all corners of our country: Alaska, Hawaii, Texas, Virgin Islands, North Carolina, the Midwest, and even on mission trips in other countries. This career has provided the satisfaction of caring for people at crucial times in their life and knowing that as the anesthetist, I have personally made a positive difference for them. Today, as an educator, I still love my profession. The idea that I can share my knowledge and love of this art with students who will then provide great care to patients and in turn encourage others to follow the same path, makes my job extremely rewarding.