Money Issues


At last I get my wish.  For several years now I have asked my colleague’s to craft a post on what they think is important for candidates to know before they apply to a school of  nurse anesthesia.  It’s been a hard sell.  To be blunt, I have been so busy working and teaching that it has been hard for me to write much as followers here can attest to.  However, there are so many good things happening that I think it is important to pass them along in a more timely manner.  With that in mind, here is what I hope to be another chapter in NurseAnesthetist.org’s future: guest writers.

This past week I received a letter from Nick Angelis, a CRNA and a writer.  He is actively working on a book, “How to Succeed in Anesthesia School.  I’ll let him tell you himself.  While I could nit pick a couple of his points, the overall focus of what Nick is saying is right on.

At what point should you start denying yourself the simple pleasures of four dollar coffee or blowing a hundred bucks every weekend?  When do you really need to start saving?  The truth is, it could take decades to dig yourself out of debt if you don’t take the necessary steps now.  There is absolutely no point in putting yourself and your loved ones through years of essentially monastic living if you’ll still be living paycheck to paycheck with a higher salary once you graduate. As I’m writing this book, student loans are at such low rates that financing your life with them (and skipping the next few rambling paragraphs) is a viable option.  I previously recommended that students pay off their undergraduate loans before starting anesthesia school, but it’s an individual decision.  As much as it depends on you, keep your other debts to a minimum.  For example, don’t make illegitimate children—child support really adds up.  Chronic illnesses tend to be expensive too, although avoiding carcinogens may be more difficult than wearing seatbelts, selling your motorcycle, or resisting the urge to sled down an icy hill on a skateboard.  The last time I had such an urge, I at least had the presence of mind to increase my life and disability insurance first–which is a must if you have a family, once you become a CRNA.

    If you have a high GPA or an interesting characteristic (e.g. Navajo and Guatemalan heritage), the first step is to look for scholarships and grants.  Regardless of the angle I tried, no one accepted my Greekness as any race or ethnicity other than Dark White.  My GPA and essay skills were good enough to justify the time I spent submitting scholarship applications instead of working at “Niko’s House of Gyro and Lamb”.  There really is no such place in my hometown, but if there were, I’d eat there twice a week.
To be honest, I never did find a single grant or scholarship to fund anesthesia school, and all my undergraduate scholarships combined were laughable had I gone anywhere but the local public university.  The prestige of your alma mater is at best a tiny variable for your success in healthcare. This isn’t business school, where networking is more important than what you learn, so the cost difference between anesthesia schools is a major factor.  This is a point where David and I differ.  He makes the valid argument that a national or even an internationally known alma mater is worth the slight difference in cost, especially if you need to relocate anyway.  The luxury of choice is admittedly rare when applying to anesthesia school.  In my book, I describe ways to look at the value of a school, taking into consideration your personal support system, cost, and reputation.  To me, an anesthesia school’s reputation from previous students matters more than what US News and World Report may think.  A small school can’t offer you the cutting edge research, tools, and surgeries found at a large academic institution.  A large school is less likely to expose you to the autonomous experience of a nurse anesthetist in rural America.  So, if you’ve always dreamed of practicing in the heart of New York City, the University of Iowa’s program might not be the best fit.  A good website to contrast different schools is all-crna-schools.com
If you’re already a nurse while reading this blog, what are ways that you can maximize your income and experience while you prepare for anesthesia school?  My school encouraged us to take core graduate nursing classes before being accepted into the program.  The unreliable hours but better pay of an agency nurse (the healthcare equivalent of a substitute teacher) allowed me to learn adaptability and get more studying done when I couldn’t find a shift to work.  None of your financial plans should take into account “the money I’ll make while I’m in anesthesia school”, because it’s just not going to happen.
So what should you do with your money?  Transferring loans from one 0% interest credit card to another can work for a while, unless you make a single mistake.  Once you run out of public and private low interest loans, websites such as lendingclub.com have much better terms than credit cards and work well as high interest (and high risk) investments if you are fortunate enough to save money.  Obviously, risking money you need for next semester’s tuition or next week’s canned soup is a bad idea once you’re in schoolon par with investing all your money in foreign stock the day before you retire.  S
ome research on your part is necessary to avoid investing in the “Anesthesia Student Wire Transfer Fund of Northwest Potiskum”.  I lived on 30% of my income as a nurse and saved the rest for anesthesia school, but my quality of life was only slightly above a vegetative state.
A friend of mine still works part time as a fireman because of the health insurance and pension plan, while another nurse I know works at an upscale restaurant on the weekends because his large tips equal the money he’d making working those hours as a nurse.  I don’t intend to imply that jobs in healthcare pay poorly until the initials “CRNA” follow your name .  Many of my fellow nurse anesthetists started as paramedics, radiology technicians, and similar careers before becoming ICU nurses and applying for anesthesia school.  In fact, you can spend your entire working career at one institution, using tuition reimbursement programs each step of the way as your education and paychecks increase.  This method never appealed to me because I knew exactly where I wanted to go and didn’t have any debt.  I tried using tuition scholarships from my various places of employment, but I always barely missed qualifying because of some technicality or other.  Stay focused on your goals because few people in American culture have a concrete idea of exactly how much money is enough.  The love of learning may dim when it contributes to your debt but not your paycheck!
Studies show that a plumber can make as much money as a doctor when taking debt into account.  As a conscientious reader, you’re probably hoping I’ve cited the plumber/doctor study at the end of this blog post so you can peruse it later.  I haven’t.  A little internet searching will be good for honing those academic sleuthing skills.  The surgeons I work with making millions of dollars complain about bills just like everyone else, so have a concrete idea of what level of income you need.  For example, a sugar momma I worked with as an agency nurse wouldn’t have had to work so many hours if she wasn’t also supporting her eighteen year old boyfriend’s weed habit.  You slave in school so you don’t have to slave for the rest of your life.

Nick Angelis

Nick Angelis is a first generation Greek American and Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist with over a decade of experience in health care.  Besides his fiction works available atwww.amazon.com/author/nickangelisNick contributes to ADVANCE magazine and is currently working on a new title, How to Succeed in Anesthesia School (And RN, PA, or Med School), available wherever fine e-books are sold or even shady ones.


So there you have – it my first guest contributor.  Well, second really because, “There I Said It” was the first to write up her “burning issues” way back in the dim years.  I hope you enjoyed Nick’s enthusiasm for teaching and writing.  Please let me and Nick know how finances have impacted your educational choices.

Categories : Anesthesia, Student Life


  1. Elena Shella Villamor says:

    Greetings! I read your site and I am fascinated by its contents; they are quite engaging. My name is Elena Shella Villamor, an expert SEO writer for Nursing Explorer (http://www.nursingexplorer.com/) – one of the leading one-stop resource center for nursing education . If you may, I would like to guest blog on your site with the following proposed topics (please choose a topic that you would like me to expound and I would be more than happy to create an article that you can post on your site) –

    ** Money Management and the Nurse Anesthetist
    ** The Nurse Anesthetist’s Educational Path

    Please get in touch with me through shella@nursingexplorer.com to inform me of your approval. Hoping this email finds you well.

  2. Daniel says:

    I only know how hard it is to get out of debt from Anesthesia School. I have only been out 3 years and I still have that burden on me. I have however paid off one loan of $25k. It took some sacrifice and determination but I made it.


Enter your email address:

Delivered by FeedBurner

website security