As the saying goes, “Variety is the spice of life.”
For some it means traveling to exotic locations, for others it’s the adrenaline rush of extreme sports…the list goes on. But for Jacob Geldrich, MS, CRNA, the newest partner in a thriving all-CRNA group in East Tennessee, it’s the lure of entrepreneurship that has led him to become the owner of a cattle farm, café, and pub in addition to being a nurse anesthetist.
“My close friends would you tell you that if you give me five minutes of free time and a good night’s sleep I’m going to start a new project,” Jacob says with a laugh. “My sister will tell you she just wants me to finish the bathroom in my basement where she stays when she visits.”
Visiting Jacob and Brooke Geldrich and their four kids means traveling to Jefferson City, a small town located in the northern part of rural Jefferson County, Tennessee. The family wound up in Jefferson out of a desire to be closer to extended family and further from the urban/suburban lifestyle Nashville offered while Jacob was earning his Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia at Middle Tennessee School of Anesthesia and then working his first job as a CRNA at Vanderbilt University Medical Center. In 2010, six months into that first position, the Geldrichs were on the move.
“It all started with land,” Jacob explained. “Brooke and I wanted to be out of the neighborhood living, so we purchased 16 acres and decided to build our house. Like everything, if you want something unique you can pay someone to do it or you can do it yourself. We are the latter. As a wood worker this was my pipe dream—you get to design and build your own house without any limitations but money.”
Another draw was the opportunity to work for Hamblen Anesthesia, PC in Morristown, where Jacob has remained for 13 years. He became the group’s fourth and youngest partner in 2022.
“I’ve spent the past 13 years building my craft in anesthesia and an understanding of how to maintain and run this group, a process that’s never ending,” he says. “Our group consists of 11 CRNAs who cover Morristown Hamblen Hospital, part of the Covenant Heath Systems. We are an independent, self-owned and directed, ‘no-hearts/no-heads’ group, which means we don’t do any neuro or cardiac. We do mostly ortho, general, OB, and outpatient cases. Over the past few years we’ve hired a truly amazing team that brings strong skillsets to the table. I’m incredibly proud to be a part of this group.”
Jacob and his sister, Steffanie, who is a CRNA in Murfreesboro, became interested in healthcare thanks to their parents. Their dad, Walter, was a CRNA, and their mom, Robin, a registered nurse. Not surprisingly, Walter was a major influence in Jacob’s decision to become a CRNA. “I don’t remember much about his schooling or even his career when I was younger, but I do remember him always being there for dinner as a family, my sports events, and family trips,” Jacob recalls. “The lifestyle my dad’s career afforded our family was fantastic. This drove me to truly look at anesthesia as my career path.”
His hands-on mentors were several instructors he deemed “amazing.” “I remember one in particular who would not allow me to use any medication until I could truly justify giving it to my patient,” Jacob says. “These sorts of lessons still stick out to me 15 years later.”
Jacob’s passion for everything in his life, from his career and side ventures to his role as a devoted husband and father, is ever-present. “I’d say the number-one thing I like best about being a CRNA is the lifestyle,” Jacob says. “This career choice has afforded me the ability to remain an active part of my family, not just be the financial provider. Life and work will always have their ups and downs, but I try not to take my job home and most of the time that’s doable. Starting a career in anesthesia is incredibly challenging. There’s so much new information and always new patients, so you’re constantly on your toes. As you develop yourself and hone your skillset, the day-to-day challenges tend to decrease. This allows for better anesthetics and increased safety for your patients.”
His message for anyone considering a career in nurse anesthesia, or those on the cusp of entering the CRNA workforce, is simple: “This career is solid. You can work anywhere in the country you want—just pick a state you like and find a hospital. The hardest part about being a CRNA is you have five minutes to convince your patient they are safe in your hands. Think about it, as a patient you choose your doctors, you indirectly choose your hospital, but a random schedule chooses your anesthesia provider. So as a CRNA, you’d better learn how to talk to people and be able to explain the process of what’s about to happen to them in a way they can understand. Then you better be able to perform at that level. I can’t tell you how many times my patients find me in public or at one of my other businesses, and that means you better get it right every time all the time.”
So what about Jacob the tireless entrepreneur. How would he describe himself in a word?
“Curious,” he says, adding, “I’d rather fail a venture than regret never going after it.”
Jacob’s first small business venture was called BoardWithWood, which he got the itch to start after building his house. “I began to get multiple requests to build everything from butcher blocks to custom kitchens, so I set up my wood shop and began to follow my passions,” he remembers. “I believe that your career is what you’re paid for, but your passion is what you’re made for. I heard Steve Harvey say this once and it really hit home with me.
“Our land soon grew from 16 to 30 acres, which is a lot to take care of,” Jacob explains. “After a family run-in with cancer, Brooke decided to go vegetarian, but I’m a way better carnivore.” At Brooke’s urging, Jacob agreed to stop eating feed-lot beef, and that’s when they started raising their own cows.
“Our family of six is 100 percent held under control by Brooke—I’ll tell you, sometimes I hit home runs, but that woman is a grand slam,” he says. “I don’t hold back in life and that’s mainly due to her. We are never alone in our endeavors. She wanted to run a café so that prompted us to purchase a building, completely remodel it, and turn it into a café during the week and an old-school pub with a true Italian pizzeria and smash burgers on the weekend. We are mainly using the beef from our farm, but outsourced all of our other meat products to farmers in our county.
“Brooke and I love people, and we would rather see others grow and succeed than watch them struggle and fail,” Jacob says matter-of-factly. “Mossy’s Café and The Mad OX House pub were designed as ways to give back. What I believe in is really simple: If you’re good to a small town it will be good to you, and our old city is in dire need of some life. The fact that my family is so close by allows us to all do more with what little time we have on this earth. My career demands a lot of me and I give it; however, when I’m off I protect that time with my family. I hope what I’m doing sets an example for my children to know no limits and be able to grow without society holding them back.”
On top of everything else, Jacob also makes time to serve as an expert CRNA witness when opportunities arise. “The expert witness thing just kinda fell in my lap,” he says with a shrug.
Jacob’s personal philosophy is straightforward. “Life is simple,” he says. “One day you’ll be old and tired, so if you think of any reason that you’ll ‘wish you would have done something,’ I advise you to just do it. I’m not much of dreamer, I’m more of a doer. I make a plan and get to work.”
Currently Jacob is working on plans for an undisclosed new venture. He says that as soon as it’s ready he’ll “put the puzzle pieces together and build our team. All I need is that five minutes of free time and a good night’s sleep.”