EXPERT TIP #8: Start doing this NOW to 🚀 Launch Yourself 🚀 to Your Dream Nursing Job When You Graduate! Guest Expert Nurse Jenny Finnell, founder of the CRNA School Prep Academy, explains. (Episode 33-Navigating Nursing School Podcast)

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Welcome to Episode 33 of Navigating Nursing School with Your Nursing Tutor. Today, you’ll be hearing from Nurse Jenny Finnell, a CRNA with over 7 years of experience AND the founder of the CRNA School Prep Academy. Nursing has a lot of acronyms, so if you don’t already know, CRNA stands for Certified Nurse Anesthetist. And I gotta say, I don’t think there’s much disagreement in the field that this is THE most difficult and competitive nursing specialty to get into. 

Anyway, Jenny is joining me today to share the number one thing you should do as a new nursing student that will make it easier to get the nursing job of your dreams later on…even if you’re not quite sure what that dream is yet. And in case you’re wondering, Jenny is NOT only talking about becoming a CRNA. This tip is for literally anybody who is in nursing school.


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FIRST EXPERT TIP #1 – Start at the beginning

NEXT EXPERT TIP #9: A genius method for preventing burnout and staying motivated.


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Links from Episode 33:

Jenny’s Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/I.C.U.DreamingAboutAnesthesia 

Jenny’s Website: http://www.crnaschoolprepacademy.com

VIP Tutoring Membership: www.YourNursingTutor.com/VIP


Transcript for Episode 33

But before Jenny shares her tip, I wanted to let you know that this is the eighth in a series of expert tips for new nursing students. Although honestly, most of the tips in this series, including this one, can be used all throughout nursing school, and even after you’re a new grad working your first nursing job, too. 

So be sure to subscribe to the podcast and get notified when each new tip is available, and also go back and listen to this series from the beginning, starting at episode 26 so that you don’t miss any of the other expert tips for new nursing students. 

I also want you to know that any links or resources that I mention today, including how to connect with Nurse Jenny outside of the Navigating Nursing School podcast, can be found on the show notes page for this episode at www.YourNursingTutor.com/episode33

By the way, if you don’t already know me, my name is Nicole Whitworth, and I’m a Registered Nurse who failed my very first nursing school quiz in an Accelerated 2nd Degree Bachelors Program…then went on to develop a BETTER way to study so that it would NEVER happen again. And it didn’t! In fact, I did so well, that my school hired me as their only nursing tutor by the end of that very same semester. 

It’s been a loooong time since I graduated with my BSN, and I’ve gone on to work as both a Pediatric Operating Room nurse and a Pediatric phone triage nurse. But I always wanted to return to my first love of tutoring and supporting the next generation of nurses…YOU! 

Now I’ve been a professional nursing tutor for over 12+ years, and I specialize in training nursing students to study in a way that teaches you to think like a nurse WHILE you’re still in nursing school, and to do it in a way that doesn’t require you to put your entire life on hold until graduation. 

That’s me. NOW, let me introduce you to my guest expert for today, Nurse Jenny Finnell. As I mentioned before, Jenny is an experienced CRNA with over 7 years of experience, and the founder of the CRNA School Prep Academy. Over the past 2 years, she has mentored over 1,000 aspiring CRNA’s, with many going on to be successful students in programs across the country. You can learn more about the CRNA School Prep Academy by going to www.CRNASchoolPrepAcademy.com

And as I said, today’s episode is not all about convincing you to be a CRNA, even though that is a really cool specialty. But if you have even a tiny bit of curiosity about what it might be like to become a CRNA someday in the future, then make sure to join Jenny’s Facebook Group “I.C.U.” (and that’s ICU like the abbreviation for Intensive Care Unit), it’s “I.C.U. Dreaming About Anesthesia”. It’s a wealth of support and resources for aspiring CRNA students, and will help you figure out if that’s an area you’d be interested in pursuing one day, too. 

Here is Jenny’s tip for you:

“Hello, Jenny Finnell here, Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist and a future student mentor. I’m here to give you what a big takeaway for your time in nursing school, and that is to explore advanced practice nurse roles early on in your nursing school journey. 

Whether that’s becoming a psychiatric Nurse Practioner, whether that’s labor and delivery, whether that’s anesthesia, such as myself, I encourage you to explore these possibilities early on in your nursing school journey. 

Because one of the biggest mistakes I see students make who attempt to go for CRNA later in their nursing journey, is that maybe they weren’t serious about going back to school after their nursing, after they gained their BSN, or their ADN. And now they kind of have some roadblocks in the way as far as undergrad GPA. Or maybe they didn’t pick the right career after they were done with school, such as ICU experience. 

So I really encourage you to try to set yourself up for success in the future by exploring these career paths early on in your journey. And that can look like job shadowing. So I encourage you to job shadow early on. Once you get into a rotation in nursing school that you really like, reach out to someone in that field and ask if you can spend the day shadowing them. 

I know early on in my journey, I actually reached out to my clinical coordinator and asked for a day in the operating room because I was very interested in CRNA. And that really helped shape my future success. And it really helped me set the foundations for what I needed to do to make that dream a reality. 

Best of luck. And again, Jenny Finnell and student mentor and founder of CRNA School Prep Academy. Good luck to you, and I wish you well.”

Thank you, Jenny, for your advice about exploring advanced practice nursing roles early in nursing school. 

Now I’d like to add a few thoughts of my own about Nurse Jenny’s tips that she shared today. 

First off, I have a special place in my heart for her advice, specifically because I firmly believe that job shadowing is how I got my very first nursing job as an Operating Room nurse at a pediatric hospital straight out of nursing school! Although unfortunately I didn’t have a  mentor like her to give me that advice back then, but fortunately I stumbled upon it quite by accident. It’s actually kind of a God story for me. 

During clinicals one day, we were rotating through the OR at a pediatric hospital, and there was a really cool neurosurgery happening that day. It was a craniotomy…but only ONE student was allowed into that OR room to observe. Reasonably so, since infection control and sterile environment is important in an OR environment, especially when we’re talking about literally brain surgery. And nobody in the OR really trusts anybody who isn’t normally there, including nursing students, because OR staff are understandably protective of their sterile fields. 

Anyway, our clinical instructor had us pick straws…and I did not get the really cool neurosurgery. But this was not my first time observing in an OR for clinicals, and I already knew that I LOVED the OR environment. So instead of being disappointed and pouting all day, I decided to keep a positive attitude and look for learning opportunities in the room I was assigned, which was Urology. 

Now it’s not always easy to see anything in a Urology surgery because of the location of the urethra. And that day there was a hypospadias repair. If you don’t know yet, “hypospadias” is a condition where the urethral opening, the tube where the urine comes out, is located on the underside of the penis instead of in the center of the glans, or head, where it is normally located. 

I know it sounds like it could actually be a cool surgery…except this is a pediatric hospital, so the surgery was being done on a toddler…who has an itty bitty dinky winky, if you know what I mean, and the surgeon’s hands pretty much blocked all the interesting things that she was doing. 

However…as it turned out, there were TWO circulating nurses in the room that day, which is very unusual. One was a veteran OR nurse with decades of experience, and she was supervising the other, who was near the end of her OR training program…that she had started as a newly graduated nurse! Which completely opened my eyes to the possibility of going straight into the OR after graduation, which prior to that experience I had assumed would be practically impossible. 

The OR nurse trainee was so friendly and willing to tell me about her experiences as a new grad OR nurse, and even took time to walk me down to Human Resources on our lunch break so that I could get more information. And during the surgery, the supervising nurse had the freedom to explain more about the surgery, what other types of Urology procedures were regularly performed, and other interesting stories about her experience as an OR nurse. 

If I hadn’t been in the Urology OR that day, I never would have even thought to look for new grad OR training programs, but it turned out that my area had at least 4…and 3 of them were planning to hire shortly after my graduation date. I went all in for OR, joined AORN, which is the Association for Operating Room Nurses, and told everyone I knew that I wanted to be an OR nurse when I graduated. 

And that is how I accidentally ended up setting up my first shadowing opportunity. I didn’t know it, but there was a nurse at my church who used to work the OR at our local heart hospital. So when she heard I was interested in OR, she immediately offered to introduce me to the nursing educator there so that I could shadow in the OR. I hadn’t even known that was a thing before she offered, and I’m so grateful that she did. I was able to observe an open heart surgery as a nursing student, and it is still to this day the coolest, most interesting surgery I have ever seen. 

So I also decided to try and set-up my own shadowing opportunity, and cold-called a different hospital in my area to see if they would let me shadow in the OR…and they totally did! 

Both of those shadowing opportunities gave me the opportunity to start networking with local OR nurses AND they definitely set my resume apart from other new grad OR applicants. 

It paid off, because I ended up getting hired immediately after graduation by that same pediatric hospital I had originally had a clinical rotation day in. It was a wonderful experience, and even though I LOVE being a Professional Nursing Tutor, there is always a part of me that wishes I could go back sometimes and be an OR nurse again. It’s really cool.

So as Jenny said, and I experienced first-hand, exploring advanced practice roles early on in nursing school is SUCH a great idea. And shadowing is really one of the best ways to do that, because not all nursing students WILL take the time to reach out and do that, so it definitely sets you apart. 

And it also helps you network in case you do decide to go into that field of specialty nursing later on. And gives you a better chance to learn the REAL DEAL about what it’s like to work in that kind of nursing role…and that’s the kind of opportunity that you may never get during clinicals, or from reading about it online or in your textbook. 

But if you’re not able to do a shadowing opportunity, which has been harder this past year with all the COVID stuff going on, then joining a professional organization can be a great option too. They usually have very, very affordable membership fees for students, it looks good on a resume, and gets you access to their “members-only” publications and resources, as well as special trainings and networking opportunities. 

When I was in school, AORN had local, in-person member meetings. I hadn’t known about the meetings while I was still a student, but I found out about them after graduating. So if you know of any local member meetings either in-person or via zoom, then that is also an excellent resource for networking. And could potentially open some doors for a shadowing opportunity as you get to know more nurses that work in your local area in that specialty, as well. 

These are all the things that I stumbled on by accident in nursing school, and they really worked out well for me. But I wish I had had a mentor like Jenny to give me advice like that. Because most of the advice I was getting from my nursing school was still along the lines of “pay your dues in med-surg for 1-2 years before applying to a specialty”. And I’ll be honest, I hated the idea of doing Med-Surg for 1-2 years. 

So if I had had someone like Jenny to mentor me, and tell me all the things I didn’t know I needed to know to make things easier, then that would have been amazing. And that reminds me, I also had a classmate who was always stressing out because she knew she wanted to be a CRNA someday, and she knew it was one of the most competitive specialties, so she was always freaking out because she was afraid that she was going to accidentally do something, or accidentally NOT do something, that would completely ruin her chances of getting into CRNA school.

And I was just thinking that if Jenny’s CRNA School Prep Academy had been available back then when we were in school, then my friend could have gotten that specialized mentorship, and she could have really set herself up for future success without so much stress and drama. That way, she would have felt more confident that she was on the right path, she would have felt more confident about where to put most of her focus, and she would have felt more confident knowing what things she didn’t have to worry about as much, too. 

Because really, my classmate was just guessing what she should do…and her “guessing” was more like assuming that every single little thing was critical to her future success, which isn’t be true because nobody’s perfect. But Jenny could have guided her and mentored her so that she knew where to spend most of her energy, and where she could relax a little bit. So if you’re in a situation like my classmate was, maybe wanting to be a CRNA someday and feeling unsure what to focus on to increase your chances of success, then remember that you can find the link for Jenny’s CRNA School Prep Academy at the top of this page.

That being said…what if you DON’T think that CRNA is the path for you, but you’re interested in other specialties areas of nursing instead? Or maybe you just want to do your best to keep your options open, like Jenny talked about in her tip? Well, mentorship is just as important in that case, too! It can still make the difference between “just guessing” what the best thing to do is, while continuing to feel incredibly unsure and anxious as a result, versus being intentional about your future success. 

I mean, back when I discovered the new grad OR program, I had thought that I wanted to be in the Neurology surgery room, that’s what I would have picked had I been given the choice because I assumed it would be the best experience for me. But if I had been selected for the Neurology room, I would never have discovered the OR training program. I stumbled upon a mentorship opportunity, and it really changed the course of my life in a positive way. 

And that experience is a BIG reason why I am sooo passionate about mentoring upcoming nursing students NOW through my VIP Tutoring Membership. I want you to avoid the common pitfalls that you don’t even know to think about or ask about, and instead be proactively doing things that you’re going to be thankful for later on because they made your life better and easier.

If I hadn’t discovered the OR training program by dumb luck, and I hadn’t accidentally found a good mentor to tell me otherwise, I probably would have ended up listening to my nursing school’s advice and applying for a Med-Surg job to work for 1-2 years. And I would have been miserable the whole time. 

So if you’d like to avoid that fate and get some mentorship on ALL the things you can and should be doing to set yourself up for success in nursing school, I mean even things like how to study better, more efficiently, how to balance your time management, how to learn to think like a nurse, stuff like that…then I would LOVE to mentor you through the VIP Tutoring Membership. If you want to learn more about how that works, then you can go to www.YourNursingTutor.com/vip 

After all, as the old saying goes, “A pinch of prevention is worth a pound of cure.” As Jenny’s tip shows you, it takes less work, less time, AND less emotional energy to think about these possibilities right now, when you’re just starting nursing school, versus ignoring them completely then realizing 5 years from now that you made a BIG mistake.

In fact, I’m also member of Jenny’s Facebook Group for aspiring Nurse Anesthetist students, and so I HAVE seen the results of what happens when you don’t take Jenny’s advice. There is zero doubt that it makes things a lot harder later on. I have seen experienced nurses who NOW want to become a CRNA, but didn’t study in a way to help them get the best grades back when they were in nursing school. Or they worked jobs that gave them the wrong sort of experience to be a competitive applicant. They can still course correct, and I know that Jenny and I are both firm believers that you can always course correct practically anything in nursing school, especially when it comes to grades and studying. It’s doable, but obviously makes things harder and can cause several years of delays while you fix the mistakes you didn’t even realize you were making at the time because you didn’t have a good mentor to help you.

I’ve seen this happen to students a lot even when they’re applying for nursing school for the first time. Like maybe you didn’t take college as seriously as you should have the first time you attempted it straight out of high school, maybe you have a few bad grades on your transcript as a result…or maybe you had some unexpected life events that were outside of your control, and had to withdraw after the deadline, so now it’s stuck on your transcript…or maybe you had some outstanding loans that prevented you from qualifying for financial aid, and it’s causing extra difficulty with paying for nursing school now…

Whatever it is, you’re not the only one. And all of these things are recoverable IF you want to go on to enroll in nursing school. But it definitely makes things harder. And it will take longer. And it will cost you more money. Because you may have to repeat classes, maybe take a few extra classes, basically go above and beyond right now to demonstrate on your nursing school application that you will be a different (and better!) student than what your older transcripts suggest. And you don’t want to be in that situation later on if you decide to pursue an advanced nursing degree.

But even with those additional challenges, maybe especially with those additional challenges, a nursing mentor can help. Because they can tell you what to do to course correct in a way that will make the best use of your time and money.

So I hope you can see how Jenny’s advice is so perfect. Because you don’t want to be doing anything today that could potentially mess you up in years to come, not when there’s easy things you can be doing now to prevent that. 

So even if you can’t imagine wanting to continue your schooling for CRNA or another advanced practice nursing role right now when you’re still feeling stressed out and overwhelmed and burnt out from nursing school, do your best to set yourself up for successful anyway, just in case you change your mind 5 or 10 years down the road. Because you never know. And a pinch of prevention really is worth a pound of cure. 

Now as I mentioned earlier, Jenny’s tip is the eight in a series of tips for new nursing students from over 2 dozen different experts. On our next episode, Nurse Chelsey Rodgers, a Critical Care nurse and founder of Tribe RN, will be joining me to share her genius method for staying motivated and preventing burn out when nursing school gets so tough that you’re ready to quit…and it’s a method that you can use for your entire nursing career, too.

So if you’d like to hear her tip along with other essential advice from other experienced nurses and nursing students who have been in your shoes (and lived to tell the tale), then make sure to subscribe to this podcast to be notified when the next episode in this series goes live. 

And while you’re subscribing, if you liked today’s tip and are looking forward to the upcoming tips as well, please leave a rating and review on iTunes or your favorite podcast app to let me know! A 5-Star review with 1-2 sentences of your honest opinion goes a looong way towards helping other nursing students find these tips, AS WELL AS motivating ME to create even more useful resources like this for you in the future. 

If you might be interested in pursuing an advanced practice nursing role someday, and you’d like some tutoring support to make sure you stay on track and competitive so that continuing your education will be easier later on…then I invite you to try out a free trial of the Your Nursing Tutor VIP Tutoring Membership. It’s an affordable way to learn the Silver Bullet Study System, an easy-to-follow study method that will help you get through your assigned reading faster AND retain more information for the long-term.

The VIP Tutoring Membership comes with curated resources you’ll need to conquer all the common nursing school challenges, and also includes live tutoring sessions via Zoom, topical trainings, and a private Facebook group so you can ask questions anytime. 

There’s no need to have a nervous breakdown because everyone else seems to have nursing school figured out on day 1, while you’re still feeling like your acceptance letter might have been a mistake…instead, let me mentor you and get a more realistic idea of where you stand and what you can do to transform into the confident soon-to-be-nurse you dream of being by joining the VIP Tutoring Membership today at www.YourNursingTutor.com/vip

Until next time, good luck on your nursing journey!

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