Nurse Anesthesia Student Spotlight: Catherine McQuade
Nurse Anesthesia Program '22
To me, being a nurse anesthesia leader means being involved not only in clinical practice, but also in policy, education, and research.
Please tell us a bit about yourself; where are you from, and what do you like to do in your spare time?
I am originally from New Jersey and spent the last 10 years in Boston, where I completed my undergraduate education at Boston College and worked as a cardiac ICU nurse at Boston Children’s Hospital. In my spare time, I love doing yoga, scoping out the NYC food scene, and traveling to see friends.
Why did you decide to become a nurse? What prompted your decision to pursue a degree in nurse anesthesia, and why did you choose Columbia?
I first recall wanting to be a nurse when I visited my aunt at Massachusetts General Hospital, where she took me to see the Ether Dome [the surgical amphitheater where the first public surgery using anesthesia took place in 1846] and taught me all about nursing. Working in the cardiac ICU at Boston Children’s Hospital, I remember caring for an anxious teenager preoperatively. I remember the CRNA taking the patient’s hand and explaining in detail how she would take care of her before, during, and after the procedure. I watched the patient’s anxiety melt from her face and transition to trust in this provider. This experience solidified my desire to become a CRNA because I am intrigued by the full circle of care CRNAs provide while still maintaining the caring component of nursing. From that moment, I focused my career on gaining the necessary experience and critical thinking skills to succeed as a CRNA. When I toured Columbia’s campus, I was drawn to the emphasis the program places on academic excellence, evidence-based care, and simulation-based learning.
What are you passionate about, and how has Columbia Nursing allowed you to follow that passion?
I am passionate about serving as a leader in the nurse anesthesia profession. To me, being a nurse anesthesia leader means being involved not only in clinical practice, but also in policy, education, and research. As a Columbia Nursing student, I learned from faculty who are leaders in their field and completed clinical rotations at world-renowned medical institutions. Columbia Nursing fostered an environment in which I was continually encouraged by my program director, Maribeth Massie, to be involved in policy through my roles as president of the New England Assembly of Student Registered Nurse Anesthetists and the American Association of Nurse Anesthesiology’s Finance Committee. Columbia Nursing also provided me with a faculty mentor, Christian Cansino, an assistant professor of nursing at CUMC, to complete a literature review research project.
Do you have a favorite memory of your time at Columbia Nursing?
My favorite part of my experience at Columbia Nursing is all of the great friends I made along the way. My classmates are so inspirational, driven, intelligent, and compassionate. I have the pleasure of learning from each of their diverse backgrounds and interests to better myself as a clinician and as a person. I never thought I would have so much fun on countless Zoom study sessions, but I found myself laughing time and time again with all of my classmates!
How has the pandemic affected your experience as a student, and your feelings about being a nurse?
The pandemic solidified how proud I am to identify as a nurse. I started the pandemic at the bedside in the cardiac ICU at Boston Children’s and helped care for patients and families during some of the scariest moments in their lives. It is a privilege to stand by their side during such pressing times and advocate for their health and wellbeing.
What are your next steps after graduation?
Following graduation, my next step is to pursue my DNP or PhD while strengthening my anesthesia skills as a new graduate CRNA at Bellevue Hospital. Ultimately, I hope to return to education as a professor to educate the next generation of nurse anesthetists.