A Day in the Life

A Day in the Life: Erin Herrera, CRNA

Work Edition

It’s an OR day!

4:30a: My first alarm goes off at 4:30a, but usually hit snooze a few times. Once I finally get my wits about me—I reach for my phone and look at my daily schedule, check epic to see if any of the cases in my OR for the day have changed and look at any updates to my patients’ chart or labs from overnight. Then I scroll through Instagram for 10 min or so until I finally drag myself out of bed. 

5:00a: Quick shower and get ready for the day. 

5:15-6:00a: “Erin time” — I sit on the couch and drink my coffee, watch local news, and scroll through Instagram uninterrupted. This is MY time and everyone knows not to come downstairs during this hour unless it is an emergency! This is my time to sit in silence and morph into the friendly person that shows up to work! 

My blue scooter!

6:00a: I drag my 6-year-old daughter out of bed. She is not a morning person! I quickly make her breakfast and pack her lunch while she watches cartoons. Also around 6:00a Jan Davis calls me and we go over call-in coverage and staffing for the day. We shift around assignments to make the daily staffing puzzle work.

6:15a: My husband comes down and we tag out kid duties — I then run off to work. Most days you can find me driving in on my signature blue scooter.

6:30a: I arrive at work, quickly change into scrubs, and head up to the daily staffing huddle. Here we go over the daily schedule and all the moving pieces with a bigger team of CRNAs and physicians. 

6:45a: I head to my assigned OR for the day to begin setting up. I work in Pod 3, which is the cardiothoracic, vascular, transplant, and cardiac cath lab ORs. My first stop is usually the pharmacy to grab a few drugs I will need for the day—then I head to the OR, check my anesthesia machine, and set up for the procedure. 

7:00a: I head to the preop holding area (usually with a few social stops and a quick cup of coffee on the way). When I get to preop, I go see my patient and go over their history and the anesthesia plan for the day. I then meet with my attending for the day, and we chat about our anesthesia plan and anything else important about the case.

Preparing for the day as I get the OR set up.

7:20a: I begin heading back to the OR with the patient! Got to be in the room by 7:30a!! Hustle hustle!!

7:30a-4:00p: I am in the OR! Depending on what service I am working with, I generally do anywhere from 1-4 cases a day! My patients are often in the ICU. I spend a lot of my days going to the ICU and bringing patients down to the OR and then back up! It’s hard work transporting a patient with all their pumps and machines back and forth to the ICU (especially heart failure patients). It takes a team of 4-5 of us to get a patient down to the OR sometimes.

During breaks in between cases, I am usually checking and responding to emails. On a busy day, I get anywhere from 50-75 emails. Most days I also have at least one Zoom meeting that I am on at some point.

If I am out of the OR, you can generally expect to see a cup of coffee in my hand. I love strong dark coffee and drink a cup every chance I get!

Trauma board time…

4:00p: If the cases in my room are finished, I head to the trauma board! From there, Jen Mahan and the trauma attending decide my fate for the last bit of my day. Sometimes I give dinner breaks to our late shift CRNAs, sometimes I relieve another CRNA, sometimes I help bring up a trauma or other emergency case from the ER. Every day in the OR is different and I love that change of pace!

5:00p: This is the end of my shift. Sometimes I leave at 5p, sometimes the ORs are still busy and I work for a while longer until the case is done or a 12-hour CRNA can relieve me! 

5:30p: I run to my office and answer any lingering emails. At least one day a week I have a late-day Zoom meeting before I head home. I try my best to put my phone away when I get home for a few hours. 

6:00p: I go to the fridge and pick out one of my GoFresh meal bags for dinner. I started getting a meal delivery service this year and it had reduced my stress so much!! While I cook dinner, my daughter and husband sit in the kitchen with me and we do her homework and chat about our days. When I am in the ORs I usually only think about WashU and anesthesia stuff so my husband updates me on what news is happening out in the world! We also love to throw on Wheel of Fortune (the OG Wordle). We are SUPER competitive with each other!

6:45p: We start to herd my daughter upstairs to start her bedtime routine. We feed fish, brush teeth, and read a few books. 

7:45p: Once we finally get the kiddo to sleep, my husband and I hit the couch and watch some TV. During this time, I usually look up my patients for the next day and occasionally answer a few more emails. If I’m lucky enough to get to work with an SRNA the next day, this is the time when we usually talk or text about our cases and their plan.

8:30-9:00p: We head to bed. I have an autoimmune disease, Rheumatoid Arthritis, which is exacerbated when I am overtired, so I am VERY protective of my sleep to try to prevent flares. I usually aim to always get 7-8 hours a night to keep my disease in check. I look at my RA as a blessing in disguise. My body tells me loud and clear when I need to slow down and find better balance!

We usually end our day throwing on reruns of the Office or my favorite show—What we do in the Shadows! I set my series of alarms for the next day and head to sleep.

Personal Edition

A day off!

Skiing at Hidden Valley!

8:45a: Woke up! It’s my off day and I desperately needed a day to sleep in! I taught my daughter to ski this weekend, and my back was reminding me that getting a 6-year-old down a slippery hill is no joke. My husband graciously took care of all morning kid duties.

Zoom time!

9:00a: Slept too late and now I’m running late for a Zoom. I threw on a hat, frantically looked at my notes, and hopped on my computer. Had a great conversation about PIA SAFE content programming.

10:00a: Spent an hour taking care of some loose ends from some projects I’m working on, and making some calls to try and plan some new Wellness events. (If you have a good suggestion about a place to have a department bonfire I’m all ears!!)

Hair cut and color by Vik!

11:00a-2:00p: Hair Salon! I took several hours to myself today to get my hair cut and colored. I drank a coffee, chatted with my stylist, and just relaxed.

Vik has been cutting both my hair and my daughter’s for several years now. Last year they identified as transgender, began hormone treatments, and transitioned to using them/them pronouns.

They are so wonderful and open about the process, and it has been such a great opportunity for myself and my daughter to have an open dialogue about what it means to be transgender and about pronouns. I am so thankful that I am able to use experiences like my relationship with Vik to bring a more knowledgeable perspective to my life and work.

2:00-4:00p: Hit the couch with some hummus and pita chips. I thought about reading a book for work but decided to watch a murder mystery docuseries instead and enjoyed some quiet time in the house while my daughter is at school.

Time for homework and dinner

4:00p: Picked my daughter up from school, came home, and started homework, spelling words, and dinner prep! Threw in a load of laundry.

5:00p: Quick early dinner because it is soccer night!

5:30p: Head to soccer practice at St. Louis Futbol club. This is a time for me to catch up with my friends—while our kids play soccer we get a chance to hang out and chat!

7:00p: Home from soccer and start the bedtime routine. While my daughter gets ready I talk to my student about our cases for tomorrow. We are on “Remotes” tomorrow, which likely means neuro IR here we come.

8:30p: Head to bed!

Did I “accomplish” much today in a traditional sense? Nope. Will I come to work tomorrow refreshed, energized, and ready to do what I love, absolutely! I love to do anesthesia. I am so thankful every day this is my chosen career. In my opinion, it truly is the best job in the whole world and I cannot imagine doing anything else, but I also love my days not doing anesthesia.