What do you call a person who works full time in a complex healthcare specialty, pursues their doctorate degree, raises small children, and volunteers to serve on a board or committee for their professional association…all at the same time? A CRNA, of course!
Or you could call them Rachel and Bethany, two good friends and high-energy TANA members who fit the above description to a T.
Rachel Nall, DNP, MSN, CRNA, likes to say, “If you want something done, ask a busy person.”
Bethany Seale, DNP, CRNA, APN, would no doubt agree with this motto. The two CRNAs forged a fast friendship while earning their Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) at the University of Tennessee Chattanooga (UTC) and volunteering in their “spare time” for TANA. Currently, Bethany serves on the TANA Board of Directors as the director of District VI, and Rachel is co-chair of the Program Committee.
Pursuing their DNP
“For me, one of the great benefits of the UTC program was having the opportunity to build a friendship with Bethany, who was a driving force in keeping me organized and encouraging me,” Rachel said, adding with a smile that her colleague, now Dr. Seale, “would send me motivational cards and little ‘happy’ funds via Venmo for coffee while we were in school.”
Rachel shared that she wasn’t planning on going to the UTC graduation, but Bethany changed her mind. “She really encouraged me to attend, and I was so glad I did,” Rachel said. “I was absolutely overwhelmed with emotion when I walked across that stage and Dean Rutledge placed my doctoral hood on. I felt very reflective about the long educational journey I’d taken (two bachelor’s degrees, a master’s degree, and now a doctorate), and how I’ll use my degree to guide other students who are pursuing our profession!”
Bethany’s feelings for her colleague, now Dr. Nall, are mutual. “I loved having Rachel in my DNP cohort,” Bethany said, calling her “a brightly shining star in our profession and as co-chair on the TANA Program Committee. We are fortunate to have her talents and unfettered enthusiasm.”
That these two CRNAs met and bonded is not surprising given the similarity of their career trajectories and personal lives.
“I decided to pursue my doctorate to hopefully fulfill a life dream of teaching in a nurse anesthesia program one day,” Bethany said. Prior to changing her major to nursing, Bethany had been an education major because she “always wanted to work in an educator role.”
She credits her employer, Advanced Anesthesia Solutions, Inc., and husband, Brandon, for their support on her journey. “Thanks to the flexibility offered to me by AAS, I was able to work full time and pursue my DNP full time as well!” she said. “And our family is used to the rigors of balancing work and graduate school full time. After Brandon graduated in 2018 with his Doctor of Physical Therapy from East Tennessee State University, we essentially switched places when I started my DNP in January 2021.”
Rachel gives credit to her husband, Kent, for helping to kick start her career as a nurse anesthetist. “Kent works in the operating room, and he encouraged me to go back to school for nursing with the goal of being a nurse anesthetist,” Rachel said. “He thought the career path would suit my personality!”
Rachel describes the greatest joy of being a practicing CRNA as two-fold: the ability to comfort patients at a time of high stress and help them have a good experience when they need to have surgery, and also acting as a leader in the operating room. The greatest challenge: Caring for the human body. “It is extremely unpredictable and may not always have the desired outcome,” she explained.
While Rachel currently works one or two days a week in the operating room, primarily providing anesthesia for orthopedic cases, her career focus now is serving the future of the profession as an assistant professor at UTC. There she specializes in training student nurse anesthetists through the use of simulators.
And, like Bethany, Rachel worked and studied at the same time. She had started in her position as assistant professor at UTC in September 2020 before entering the doctoral program in January 2021. “I wanted to be a good example for my students and draw from my experience in the DNP program to guide them, so I pursued the degree,” she explained. “I’m so grateful I was able to do it at UTC, the school I absolutely love.”
Bethany aspires to be an educator down the road as well, but said she loves her current job working with ambulatory patients and also having the opportunity to still work PRN at the hospital to care for more critically ill patients. “I find managing airways, lines, vasoactive infusions and ‘putting all the puzzle pieces together’ to help improve a patient’s outcome to be deeply satisfying,” she said. “The best thing, though, is that I get to work with so many wonderful people as we care for patients. I love serving an integral part of the patient’s perioperative management and personalizing their care to best fit the patient’s needs. One of the more challenging aspects is balancing that personalized care with the needs of the surgeon/proceduralist, the center and the overall schedule.”
Support along the Way
Mentors have played a huge role in both their careers. “Along the way I have had multiple mentors,” Bethany said. “In school, some of the most influential CRNA preceptors I worked with included Carrie Linebaugh, Dave Ratliff, and Katherine Norman. They all shaped my practice and helped me learn so many ‘tricks of the trade.’ Also, Dr. Susan Thul, my project chair, was incredible. As a practicing CRNA, Sharon Farley has been a great source of mentorship and support, both when I was new grad and now after nine years of experience.”
Rachel recalled her mentors as being instrumental to her becoming an educator. “My mentors for pursuing my DNP and then transitioning into working in the university setting were Dr. Linda Hill (former TANA president and current UTC program administrator for nurse anesthesia) and Dr. Laura Tyndall (assistant program director at UTC). Both of them have encouraged and guided me through the program as well as furthering my career as an educator.”
Besides their passion for their careers and life-long learning, family is always at the heart of everything they do.
“I have been married to my best friend, Brandon, for the past 12 years,” Bethany said joyfully. “We have two children, Clara who is 7 and Truman who is 5. They are my proudest accomplishments in life.” She added, not surprisingly, that the Seales are a very busy family. “We love to visit national parks and monuments. For my birthday two years ago, my husband gave me a national parks passport—we have fun filling the passport with cancellation stamps to document our adventures.”
Rachel also has two children and a busy family-life. “My daughters Kendall and Blair are 7 and 2,” Rachel said, recalling that Kendall was just 10 months old when Rachel started anesthesia school, and Blair was just two weeks old when she started her doctoral work.
The old saying “It takes a village” holds true for both Rachel and Bethany. “I am grateful to have had the support of my family and colleagues along this incredible journey,” said Rachel. “My desire in all my academic and professional accomplishments is to be an example of perseverance and effort for my daughters.”
While Bethany doesn’t have family in the immediate area she and Brandon can count on, they have a strong support-system nonetheless. “We have developed a support system filled with so many generous, patient and kind friends who have helped us in so many ways throughout the past few years, I cannot emphasize our gratitude for them enough,” she said.
Making TANA a Priority
So with everything they already have on their plates, what motivates Rachel and Bethany to squeeze in time to volunteer for TANA?
“I have been so rewarded by the experience of serving on the TANA Board and committees,” Rachel explained. “I truly believe in supporting your professional organization because I have seen the advocacy and protection a professional organization provides. Personally, I enjoy the ability to network at meetings and see what other CRNAs are doing for their patients and in their communities, and I especially love working with students. Having the opportunity to meet student representatives and others who are leaders in their cohorts is really special.”
Bethany remembered being inspired to get involved with TANA as a new nurse anesthesia student in 2011, thanks to the late Donald Bell, clinical associate professor and program administrator of the University of Tennessee nurse anesthesia program. “Dr. Bell ingrained in me and my classmates the importance of advocating for our profession and protecting our patients,” she said. “As a previous TANA president and member of the Tennessee Board of Nursing, he encouraged all junior SRNAs to attend TANA’s annual meeting. I did, and the experience sparked my interest in potentially attending the AANA Mid-Year Assembly in Washington, DC. I asked Dr. Bell if I would be able to go and he graciously excused my absence from my clinical rotations and didactic coursework so I could attend. While there, I learned about professional advocacy and current legislative issues affecting nurse anesthetists. I was also matched up with a CRNA mentor, Carl Sisco from Tennessee. It was a truly wonderful experience that I am forever grateful for!
“Since then, I have been an active member of TANA and the AANA serving in a variety of capacities,” Bethany said, “It’s a rewarding experience to give back to my profession while advocating for both CRNA practice and the safe, effective care we provide to our patients on a daily basis.”
For both CRNAs, the secret to meeting all their commitments is pretty similar and very straight-forward.
“Organization is imperative in anesthesia and also in juggling multiple jobs,” Rachel said. “I have another saying, and that is ‘A thing worth doing is worth doing well.’ I try to find enjoyment and purpose in everything I pursue. If you enjoy doing something, it will often take priority in your life. If you think service or pursuing another degree is something you would enjoy and be good at doing, I find you will often be able to look at your schedule and know how to make it work.”
Bethany concurred. “Organization, working ahead and recognizing limits have been keys to my success,” she said. “To those who might think they are too busy to get involved with TANA, I would say if I can manage a busy, active family, working full time, going to graduate school full time, and serving as a district director and committee member, I promise you, you can be involved in some capacity as well! Join a committee, sign up to be a TANA student mentor, donate to TANA-PAC, contribute to funding a student’s attendance to the TANA annual meeting, or find something else that inspires you. We are all busy but have gifts and talents that can be utilized and appreciated in some capacity by TANA.”