Aaron Ostrowski is an officer in the Pennsylvania Association of Nurse Anesthetists (PANA), which represents more than 3,000 certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) and students across the commonwealth, and he will become the PANA President this fall.
We took some time to get to know Aaron and learned that he is deeply passionate about his profession – including the time he spends educating future CRNAs and the time he dedicates to pursuing PANA’s interests. But he is much more than a CRNA, MSN and future DNP. Aaron is a family man who enjoys travelling, driving sports cars and doting on his family’s misbehaved cat.
Take some time to get to know Aaron Ostrowski, your President-elect…
Q: What is your position on the board?
A: I am currently the President-elect on the PANA Board of Trustees and serve as the Chair of the Government Relations Committee (GRC). I have been the GRC Chair for two years, and I have been on the PANA Board since the fall of 2012.
Q: Why did you choose to serve as a PANA Trustee?
A: I realized that serving on the PANA Board was going to be the best way for me to help effect change for CRNAs and our profession.
Q: Where do you currently work?
A: I work at UPMC-Presbyterian in Pittsburgh where I am a Trauma-Transplant CRNA, and I also serve as the hospital’s SRNA Clinical Coordinator for Anesthesia Specialties. About half of my position is clinical, and the other half (and more) of my time is spent in education as an instructor in the University of Pittsburgh Nurse Anesthesia Program where I have been a member of the adjunct faculty since 2008.
Q: How long have you been practicing?
A: I’ve been a nurse for 23 years, and I’ve been a CRNA for almost 15 years. At the end of this year, I will earn my Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree.
Q: Where did you go to school?
A: I had the dream of attending a major college as a young man. I am an alumnus of the Washington Hospital School of Nursing (1992) and the California University of Pennsylvania (1996), and after taking the sensible path to my nursing education, I wanted to make the jump to major graduate school. I felt that Pitt was the school for me, and I graduated from the University of Pittsburgh in 2001. Even after all of these years, I do not regret my decision because the nurse anesthesia program remains among the best programs in the country.
Q: What made you choose being a CRNA as a profession?
A: As a young man, I knew I had interests in anatomy and physiology, working with people, and having an active job. I thought that meant being a doctor, but I found out during my freshman year of school that there was another option – nursing. As a young nurse, I knew that my future was going to develop into more than a career in the ICU. While looking into the different options available to me, I attended an open house for graduate programs and met Laura Palmer, who has since retired from her position as the Assistant Director of the University of Pittsburgh Nurse Anesthesia Program. In about 15 minutes, I realized we grew up in the same area and that she knew my family. At that time, I had no idea what a nurse anesthetist was, but I learned. And the rest is history.
Q: What do you feel are the most important issues currently affecting the field?
A: I feel that identity is a key issue. If CRNAs were readily identifiable as a healthcare solution by our health care system, there would be no discussion about scope of practice, reimbursement, credential recognition or title protection with legislators, administrators and the public.
The other aspect of identity is how we feel about ourselves, our profession. I work with a great group of CRNAs who are capable of resurrecting very ill patients, but they struggle with the reality of our profession requiring an entry-level doctoral degree, which I can understand. I am pursuing my DNP, and once a skeptic, I now see the value in assessing needs at work, being able to look at the evidence, and developing interventions to improve the workplace. I characterize doctoral education as personalizing your profession to fit your career aspirations. You can cut your own road. The challenge with the DNP will be finding suitable and relevant projects for young, relatively inexperienced nurses to finish in a short, three-year timeframe.
Q: What do you enjoy most about your career?
A: On the clinical side, I enjoy the everyday rewards of a smooth emergence, a comfortable patient, and the ability to walk away from the job at the end of the day. On the education side, the job may never complete, but the interaction with the students is priceless. They tend to teach me as much or more than I teach them.
Q: Do you have any advice for CRNAs in the field or SRNAs studying the profession?
A: Of course! For CRNAs in the workplace, know your value. There are opportunities to hear this information from time to time at various AANA meetings. Also, don’t forget how well this profession has treated you. Where would you be without it? What has it afforded you? You can give back to your profession by remembering “CARVED.” Communicate new things, information and ideas with each other, your hospital, your legislator, your family and your friends. Attend state and national professional meetings and legislative fundraisers. Read emails and literature from AANA and PANA. Vote in your professional, state and national elections. Educate yourself on your scope of practice, your rights as an employee, billing, etc. Finally, Donate your fair share, $10 to PANA-PAC and $10 to the AANA’s CRNA-PAC. Link it to your credit card, and rest assured that you are doing all that you need to promote your profession.
Q: What do you do in your free time (when not working)?
A: I am a car guy. I like to drive a six-speed, and I just test-drove the new Camaro SS with the 6.2L V8. I also like to travel with my family, and we have been blessed to do a fair amount of travelling as a family of five. Our family trips have created a lot of great memories!
Q: Give us one interesting fact about you that no one would guess in a million years?
A: Our pet, TC – or Top Cat, has ruined a leather chair, scratched a newly refinished heirloom
desk, and tracked sky blue paint around the house, but in spite of all my grumbling about our cat, I do enjoy petting him. He even spent the past hour with me, soaking up the sun as I worked on my PANA profile.