June Spotlight – Colleen Bender MSNA, CRNA, APRN
Growing up the daughter of an ER nurse, Colleen always saw herself becoming a nurse. She spent time after school doing homework in the nurse’s station at Parkland Medical Center in her hometown of Derry, New Hampshire. As a teen, she worked as a volunteer “sitter” for psych patients in ER holding. For a high school history project, Colleen researched the history of nursing. After extensive reading of texts and memoirs of numerous military nurses she decided that was the path for her. Low and behold the military even wanted to pay for school! She attended Saint Anselm College in Manchester, NH on full scholarship from ROTC through UNH. Along with the usual college courses, she studies military science and did physical training with her unit. From infantry tactics to land navigation, she honed this new skill set at Fort Devens, Fort Lewis and training as a nurse at Fort Bragg.
In 2006, she graduated with her BSN and was commissioned as a Second Lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps. Throughout nursing school she worked as a tech and LPN in the same ER as her mother and continued that summer as a nurse. That fall she went to Officer Basic Training in San Antonio, TX. Following that, her first duty station was Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany where she was assigned to work on the pediatric unit. With the largest population of Americans outside the U.S., Colleen stayed busy with PICU/NICU patients and even transported patients on C17s back to the States. Landstuhl is the overseas hub for all military medical care on that side of the world. On the med/surg unit she cared for many combat wounded from Iraq and Afghanistan and eagerly awaited her chance to deploy. In 2008, she was sent to Iraq to work at Ibin Sina Hospital in downtown Baghdad. Although it put a crimp in her busy world travel plans, she was chosen to work in the ICU and learned from incredible providers including the world’s best prepared CRNA’s. There, Colleen’s desire for high level practice and independence was born. She was formally trained in Critical Care serving 8 years both active duty and reserves. She has some amazing and jaw-dropping stories. After meeting her husband, now Air Force retired, she moved to Louisiana and attended anesthesia school at Texas Wesleyan University in Fort Worth. Her husband deployed for a period and 9 months after he returned home their first daughter was born… with 6 months to go until graduation.
After graduation she moved back to her home state of New Hampshire and started her anesthesia career at Catholic Medical Center in Manchester. After 2 years, she left CMC for Portsmouth Regional Hospital and as full-time CRNA, she began to realize that per diem, or “local locums” was best for her and her family. She hustled to get credentialed at multiple hospitals, surgery centers and offices with the hopes of always having plenty of work scheduled. Doing so has allowed her to take control of her schedule and increase her scope of practice with a great variety of cases including regional, pediatrics, cardiac/vascular in addition to bread-and-butter anesthesia. She has the good fortune of working with many incredible providers who have continued to inspire and improve her practice daily. The flexibility and independence are exactly what Colleen was seeking. She is constantly learning and enjoys imparting wisdom and any information that might be helpful to other CRNA’s so that they too can practice to their highest level of training and ability. Colleen’s free time is spent with her wonderful husband, two beautiful and lively girls, and their pair of Boxers. She and her family can often be found hiking and skiing the trails around her beloved home state.
What Her Colleagues Say About Her….
Colleen disarms you with a quiet, calm nature that quickly gives way to a lifetime of experiences that she’s managed to learn already. She never backs down from a challenge, in fact; she often runs full speed into them with tenacity and ability. Morphing obstacles into learning experiences, and tasks into skills, she freely imparts all these bits of knowledge to whomever is around her. She is the consummate team player, looking for ways to help her fellow CRNAs while contributing to the greater good of patient care through opioid-free techniques and regional skills.
She has worked tirelessly to create a reputation for herself of competence, confidence, and compassion that make surgeons take notice. Colleen is an excellent resource for any CRNA looking to transition into the 1099 arena. Her ability to learn from her experiences and her willingness to pass that knowledge on is invaluable. She is constantly striving to elevate and improve her skills as an independent anesthesia provider, inspiring others along the way. She values the expertise of her fellow CRNAs and enjoys making connections within the community. Allowing our profession to teach each other through knowledge sharing of new skills and abilities. Colleen embodies the ideals of giving back. From her time serving our country and throughout her nursing and anesthesia career, she quietly takes pride in helping others. When you need someone to count on, show up, lend an ear, answer a question, or toss back a beer with… Colleen always answers the call with a huge smile on her face and a jaw-dropping story to brighten your day. Reminding you that we are all in this together, no matter where we are in our journey on this planet.
Getting to Know You Better…
1. Top 3 hobbies/interests outside of work?
2. Favorite thing to do in NH?
Hike anything with good scenery and spent time with my family
3. Mountains or Seacoast?
As Seacoast resident I believe salt air cures but I also live for the majesty of Mountain ranges.
4. If you could live anywhere in the world, where would it be?
Right here in NH! After traveling extensively there is still no place like home.
5. Hardest anesthesia concept in school to figure out?
After being a trauma/neuro focused ICU nurse, I found cardiac concepts challenging but found myself enjoying it and working as a cardiac CRNA in my first job.
6. Pedi or Adults?
With humble beginning in pedi I enjoy working with kids but need the variety of adult patients.
7. CRNA you look up too? WHY?
Jeremy Prime was the most knowledgeable and helpful preceptor I had at LSU Medical Center. I learned so much from a case in his room and felt challenge to bring my “A game”.
8. Top 3 bucket lists items?
1. Seek the good in all people.
2. Grow old with my husband and see my beautiful girls have careers and families they love.
3. Have good stories to tell when I am an old lady.
One piece of advice you’d like to impart to future CRNA’s?
Never stop learning. Not just about anesthesia either. There is so much more you are capable of than what you are currently doing. If you have the desire and courage to ask the questions, then anything is possible with a strong work ethic.