I opened my own anesthesia business one day on accident.
Read that sentence again because it makes zero sense.
I recently left a cushy W2 job with a schedule conducive to my young family’s needs because it sucked my soul bone dry. With the change to 1099 status, I also enjoyed the freedom of release from a non-compete clause. I got competitive really quick. Unknowingly.
I heard a tip from a friend of a friend that a clinic in town was recently in need of anesthesia services. With two young children and zero business sense, I phoned an acquaintance much more suited for the job. Between juggling diapers and wondering if I brushed my teeth or not, I was at capacity.
So, when I found myself on a leather couch that likely cost double my mortgage, negotiating anesthetic fees came out of left field. The only help I could offer the other CRNA was not letting my mouth hang agape when she informed the physician clinic owner we charged the same fee as the prior MDA. And in cash. Hands were extended and shaken, and I was now the proud partner in a new business venture. Maybe it was the physician’s expensive cologne, or maybe it was my inadequacy seeping out, but I was dizzy. While my head spun, something else in me buzzed with excitement.
My new business partner had a smug grin as we debriefed in the parking lot. Horrified at the sum of money we were to make, I asked her why not offer a bargain price. She asked me why I would discount the exact same service. Anesthesia is anesthesia, whether it comes from me or someone else. She smiled at me and slid into her shiny beemer. I stood there, a moment too long, gobsmacked.
What I lacked in the business sense, I made up in sheer determination and grit. If we charged top dollar, what we delivered and what I could offer the partnership would be immaculate service. In this stage of my career (>5 years experience), I learned that 10% of my job was clinical skill and 90% was customer service. The facility and the patients were my customers. We were not only on time but early enough to pre-op all patients and start IVs. I recovered my own patients, and I cleaned the room after myself. The nurses loved us. The physician loved us because the patients adored us. I had helped create a well oiled machine.
The gig was good while it lasted. I ended up moving away to pursue other life adventures. I think my partner stayed, and I hope she is still reaping the benefits of our hard work and (her) knack for negotiating.
I should have thanked her. For forcing me to never sell myself short and for making me do that hard thing. Currently, I am working on a research study focused on women CRNA’s perceptions of self-competence. I ask about past mentors. I would list her as a top one, but I have so many. I wonder if she knows her impact.
Another CRNA preceptor briefly mentioned the 80% rule to me. “If you’re 80% happy, be content. Nothing is perfect.” I can’t remember her name but I remember her face telling me this and I remember the feeling of epiphany. As someone who has chased perfection her whole life, the preceptor’s words gave me permission to be content.
Words from other women have come and gone. Some have stuck. Some I have tried to unstick, but they pierced me with their sharp barbs.
I think about the current group of women in my anesthesia practice, smart, talented, generous women who lift one another up. I think about my past, current, and future students I have worked with some with whom I’ve made a strong connection. The idea of mentoring young female CRNAs gives me the same buzz of excitement that I got when considering I was (am) the CEO of my own successful business. Maybe more of a buzz. I want to take a chance on someone like those before me who took a chance on me.
I want to reflect but not dwell on my mistakes, I want to celebrate my successes and successes of others. EmpowHER was created to help women who want to embrace a culture of sharing evidence and creating a community where we can all thrive.