My name is Leah Bergman. How do I introduce myself? As a mother of three? A Nurse Anesthetist here in the Vanderbilt Children's Hospital? An ex-musician of a female punk band, who still occasionally plays around Nashville? A Girl Scout troop leader? You child's Sunday school teacher? A running coach? When I came to Vanderbilt as a Patient Care Tech in 2004, I had already earned some of these titles but had not yet
earned them all.
In my first life, I attended Belmont on scholarship as a composition and piano major in 1996 until I signed a record deal as a rock solo artist and dropped out of college to tour and record. Yes, I'm a college drop-out! I was on two more record labels after that and recorded three full-length albums, toured over 200 days each year and had songs on other projects including an MTV sitcom pilot, a Budweiser commercial (with Gene Simmons of KISS) and a children's album. Between projects I worked for several other artists who needed a "fill-in" bass player which landed me on the stage of the legendary Ryman auditorium as well as the Austin City Limits Festival.
I still enjoy playing with friends around town a few times a year and have taught all three of my children to play piano and guitar, although my youngest enjoys playing the drums more than anything. We have musical instruments in almost every room of our house and play every day.
Since the touring life and parenting proved to be more of a task that I could handle, I hung up my bass and went back to Belmont's beautiful campus - this time, knocking on the doors of the nursing school. I chose nursing because I hoped I could travel anywhere in the whole world and find an adventure (and a job). I hoped it would be a way to interact with others and still allow my creativity to come out.
I knew I wanted to work at Vanderbilt and was excited when a care partner job became available in the Vanderbilt Psychiatric Hospital working on the adolescent and children's unit in 2004. I stayed there until I graduated nursing school in 2005 when I started working the Burn Unit. While working there, I learned about this job: "CRNA", and fell in love with the idea of becoming one. I was inspired by some important people there who encouraged me to go for it, including my co-workers Brett Clay, Ryan Hill, Lee Parmley, and Pratik Pandharipande.
It only took my six more years to find the courage to apply for CRNA School.
As a CRNA in the Pediatric Division, we work with all sorts of children; some who have experienced major trauma, some who have multiple co-morbidities and some who are completely healthy. I provide anesthetics that range from basic monitoring with a natural airway to cases that require multiple monitors and invasive lines with very technical titrations and stringent biological parameters to maintain. I manage straight-forward and difficult airways. Because of the high acuity levels of our patients, our team (the CRNA's, Anesthesiologists and Anesthesia Technicians) work extremely well together and we are most certainly a VERY tight-knit group. It's a beautiful thing to be a part of when I see all of our hard work and efforts pay off.
When I'm not in the operating room, I'm writing about being in the operating room. I'm supported and encouraged by my leadership to write, present, and publish which I have been lucky enough to do several times. Poster presentations at the AANA for three years in a row, a journal publication featuring the novel use pulse oximetry, anesthesia tech lectures, and a panel presentation on the road to publication for our APN Council have been a few of the things I have enjoyed the most.
Since I have been a CRNA, I have worked in the Multi-Specialty Division, the Adult Cardiac Division, and the Pediatric Division (where I spend most of my time). I enjoy working in different areas and with different patient populations, because it allows me to use so much of my training and really brings out that creative side in me. Floating to these divisions can sometimes be challenging but CRNA's support and encourage each other unlike any group I have ever been a part of, which is a recipe for success for patient care as well as learning new things.
Landing in the world of pediatrics couldn't have been any more perfect for me since I enjoy working with children, whether it has been in the form of a Girl Scout troop leader for the last eight years, or a Sunday school teacher for the last four. The best part of my job by far, is starting off every day dodging toddlers in the hallway and giving high fives to the school-aged children! Focusing on a peaceful separation of patient-from-parents never gets old. It's a new technique and strategy for every family, which means that my job NEVER gets boring. How many people can say that?
I work with the best group of people in the world and am so lucky that I found my family here among our CRNA group. I had always hoped that I would someday wear that "dark blue badge" with the words Leah Bergman, CRNA on it and now that it's been almost five years wearing it, I'm still blown away by how lucky I am to work beside these incredible people. My hope is that I will continue to thrive as a CRNA and as a person who can measure up to the team that I'm a part of.