Once in a blue moon you meet someone whose life has unfolded and been lived in such an inspirational manner, you become convinced their story deserves to be the basis for a novel or even big screen movie. Brant Langlinais is one of those people. Brant grew up on a small rice farm in Southern Louisiana in the heart of Cajun Country – Delcambre, Louisiana. His family’s farm enjoyed a spectacular view of Avery Island; located in a small shrimping and fishing community tucked away on the coast, two miles from the Tabasco Factory.
When Brant was a young boy, his father instilled within him an appreciation for the value of hard work. Brant was taught how to be productive and work on the family farm, which he did. He also had a solid role model in his father who worked 2 jobs – he was an agricultural engineer as well as a rice farmer. His mother was also an example of dedication to higher principles – she was a Physical Education teacher at the local elementary school in addition to raising the family’s three children. The work ethic and dedication of their parents gave rise to a determination to excel within the children. Says Brant:
“I had an older brother who was popular and a younger sister who did everything by the book. Both were outstanding students so I couldn’t slack off for fear of being the one left behind. Competition drove our dynamic.”
With a tendency to minimize the effects on his childhood, Brant explains that he was born with a rare congenital defect, “Cutis Marmorata Telangiectatica Congenita.” He explains: “This affects 1 in 500,000 births a year. That medical jargon means I was born with dilated blood vessels. While it sounds scary, I led a pretty normal life as a child, however, I did have plenty of doctor’s visits.”
In spite of the rare medical condition, Brant succeeded in attending and graduating from the Louisiana State University Health Science Center School of Nursing (LSUHSC) with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing as well as a Master of Nursing-Nurse Anesthesia. Working between 60-70 hours per week, today Brant is a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) at American Anesthesiology of Texas and also the Director of Clinical Operations for Aya Healthcare.
Interview - Question & Answer
At what point in your life did you realize you wanted to be a nurse?
I’ve known that I wanted to be a CRNA ever since getting my wisdom teeth pulled when I was 16 years old. When I found out there was a person who was responsible for the way I felt after that surgery, I thought to myself “what a cool job putting people to sleep and waking them up everyday!”
It sounds like your entire family has been inspirational and influential in your life.
My family is truly inspirational to me. My father taught me my work ethic, my mother taught me the importance of dedication and responsibility, my grandfather taught me about the importance of relationships with people, and my grandmother taught me to trust and love.
Did you have a specific medical role model that you looked up to in terms of career choices?
My brother is also a nurse. He is three years older than I am and went through nursing school first. While he was there, I was able to see what a BSN workload looked like and how the clinical and classroom experiences correlated. Watching him succeed ignited my ambitions and made me more excited to begin my career.
What do you consider to be your greatest academic challenges while pursuing your degrees?
This question is so easy for me to answer…….FAILING. In graduate school, I sometimes invested 50-60 hours of study time a week on difficult concepts and techniques, only to make a grade that was not satisfactory for passing. Nothing can be more discouraging than giving your all and not achieving the desired result. I had to push forward, adapt, and change the way I was studying and thinking in order to become the practitioner that I wanted to be. Nothing was more satisfying to me as a student than putting in the effort and finally achieving an exceptional grade.
How about emotional challenges?
Coming from a small Cajun community, having a rural public-school education, and having a hard Cajun accent were distinctive (some might even say charming) qualities that both helped and hindered me. Some teachers and professors “got” me. They understood I was motivated and engaged, that I wanted to learn and that I asked tough questions not to be contrary but because I was curious. However, there were others who misunderstood me. They misinterpreted my personality and felt as though I was challenging them rather than just being naturally inquisitive. It became a struggle at some points in my education to develop relationships that I needed to feel comfortable. As a student, I wanted to believe that the people teaching me were my support system and that they were people I could trust. At times in my educational endeavors, breakdowns in communication made me doubt myself and my goals.
It sounds like you had a rough road…
In the end, I never stopped trying to develop relationships with the people who I felt could guide and teach me to be the best nurse I could be. I had to be consistent and constantly focus on the way I was communicating. I got insight into effective communication techniques and remained determined to make sure that what I was saying was reflective of the messages I was trying to deliver. It was a constant battle, but eventually, I was able to hone the articulation skills needed to succeed.
You had something devastating occur around graduation, didn’t you?
I was the LSUHSC-NO graduating class that experienced Hurricane Katrina’s wrath. We were set to graduate in December of 2005, but things would change drastically in August of that year. We faced adversity we never could have imagined over the next several years. First, because our campus in New Orleans was destroyed by the hurricane, we had to finish our classes in a movie theater in Baton Rouge, which was over 60 miles away. Nursing jobs were available everywhere in South Louisiana, but living situations were difficult as was the emotional toll the devastation had wrought in the region.
That must have been horrific! How did you handle it?
Because of all this uncertainty, I decided it was best to start my nursing career in another state. I moved to Austin, Texas and I was initially offered a job in an ICU. However, they wanted a two year commitment. I intended to complete my CRNA and didn’t want to commit to a job and a city for that long, especially since my career was just beginning. Instead I chose a position on a Post Coronary Cath Unit pulling sheaths post cath lab and taking care of post coronary stent patients. Choosing this unit as a new graduate nurse proved to be one of the best decisions I have ever made. I was able to establish a great clinical foundation on this unit and my work there led to an abiding love for cardiac intervention. I learned how to take care of patients, start IVs, read EKGs, handle arterial line monitoring, and most importantly, interact with patients who were able to communicate, which is not generally the case with ICU patients.
That is wonderful! What was your next step career-wise?
After working for a year in Austin, I decided it was time to go back to New Orleans and help rebuild a city in desperate need of healthcare providers. I chose to work at Tulane Hospital in the surgical ICU. What a place to learn how to be a nurse! I had great mentors who taught me how to be an ICU nurse. I truly have an appreciation for these nurses because they were so willing to teach me, a nurse with little ICU experience, and groom me to be the perfect fit for this high-intensity environment. There is so much to learn, so many overwhelming experiences to push through. A trusted and respected team does wonders for a nurse’s ability to achieve his or her career goals. I have been lucky enough to work with many excellent teams in my life. At Aya Healthcare for example, we’ve been able to create healthy, transparent teams and grow over the course of my 5 years from 300 nurses to 2,400 travel nurses nationwide. The camaraderie and rapport between recruiters, nurses, and managers is second to none.
Now what exactly is Aya Healthcare and how did you come to work for them?
I have a cousin in medical sales and through him I was able to see the internal dynamics on the business side of healthcare. He was the person who introduced me to another aspect of healthcare that I found intriguing, travel nursing. When healthcare facilities experience staffing shortages they often use travel nurses to handle the patient load. After Hurricane Katrina and Hurricane Ike, staffing needs were prevalent throughout the state of Louisiana. We decided we’d buy a small local franchise and attempt to help out by staffing the New Orleans market. During this venture, I received support and advice from another cousin with a background in finance. I’ll never forget our drive home that day after purchasing the franchise. I had so many dreams of conquering the staffing market, and she always encouraged me to continue my pursuit of this goal.
How did you do with the company?
We compiled a large nursing pool of RNs, LVNs, and CNAs but unfortunately, we never filled a contract. Despite our apparent failure, we learned some valuable lessons including how to reach out to hospitals and walk into a business meeting with an ultimate goal in mind.
That must have been difficult…
We picked ourselves up and moved on. My cousin in finance went on to become a prominent part of a growing staffing agency in San Diego called Aya Healthcare. This company eventually presented me the opportunity to become a clinical liaison between their staff and contracted nurses, and this foundation led to opportunities I could never have foreseen. Making a connection between all these experiences with the most important people in my life, my family, and pursuing my dreams has ultimately paid off. Working for Aya Healthcare I get to combine my passion for providing excellent patient care while keeping a hand in the business side of things as well.
Tell us what a day in your life is like…
A day in my life starts out with an alarm clock ringing at 5:30 a.m. I get my morning coffee and read up on news related to LSU, the world, and the stock market. I leave for work around 6:15 and commute 20 minutes to the hospital and operating room. From there, I take care of a wide variety of caseloads. Depending on my spot in the call list, I will work as an Anesthetist until at least 3:30. From there, I go to a quaint coffee shop near my home and post up for the afternoon, working remotely for Aya Healthcare on the West Coast. I make sure to stay meticulously organized. I usually shut down shop around 6:30 and become a full time father and husband from there. I have a very supportive and amazing wife who stays at home with my two sons and daughter. When my work day is over, I spend time with my family, give baths, and cook if I can. I find some time to decompress around 9:00 p.m.
Why did you choose to become a CRNA?
After working in the ICU for so long, I wanted a new challenge. Seeing CRNAs come in and intubate patients when they were crashing was exciting. My interaction with CRNAs would consist of getting post-surgical patient report and even in those relatively brief encounters they always seemed happy and fulfilled. I wanted to be a part of that dynamic.
Why did you become involved in the business aspect of medical services?
As for becoming a clinical liaison and, eventually, Clinical Director of Aya Healthcare, I never stopped working, learning, or making myself available to this company and the opportunities the relationship provided. I give them every hour of my time when I’m not in the operating room. If that means occasionally sacrificing a dinner with my family, it is more than worth it to know that I am helping travel nurses succeed. I love that I get to challenge myself. Sometimes I have had to commit to things I’ve never done before, and leaving my comfort zone like that has helped me grow. In the end there is nothing more exciting to me than being approached with a problem that I don’t immediately have an answer to and then seeking out information, consulting other experts, and networking to solve it.
So working at Aya keeps you "on your nursing toes" so to speak?
As part of my role at Aya Healthcare I have many conversations with travel nurses that intertwine with my past experiences. These travel nurses are on contract with Aya Healthcare in locations all over the country. Being in a new place, with new coworkers, and a new work environment is exciting but also comes with inherent challenges. Nursing in general, and travel nursing in particular, is an incredibly rewarding but an occasionally difficult profession and I’ve been in their shoes – I can relate. The more nurses I have counseled, the easier it has become to create a dialogue that the travel nurse can understand, and to come up with solutions to every bump in the road.
Have you ever regretted having a "dual" career?
My decision to work with Aya Healthcare in addition to my chosen area of specialization as a CRNA has proven to be one of the best I have ever made. I have sacrificed time after long days in the OR to help Aya Healthcare become an industry leading travel nursing company and I have been rewarded for doing so. Helping Aya Healthcare reach a position of prominence and provide an unsurpassed level of service to our travel nurses is one of the professional accomplishments that brings me the most pride.
What characteristics do you think allow someone to thrive in both of your careers?
In both anesthesia and consulting, you have to be driven to succeed and achieve the highest standards of care. Confidence is also key to success. The autonomy that comes with being a CRNA is unparalleled in the advanced practice nursing field. I try to gain a vast majority of different experiences in my field while also understanding my limitations. I don’t want to be perceived as a CRNA who is overconfident and unwilling to ask for help. Knowing your limitations is another characteristic that is vital to success.
As a consultant, you have to be ready to commit to being available anytime, anyplace, anywhere and in my role at Aya Healthcare that is exactly what I do. When your client needs you must be willing to come to the rescue with alacrity.
You sound like you absolutely love your jobs!
I am excited by the amazing medical techniques I get to employ. I enjoy regional anesthesia and using ultrasound to block nerves. Ultrasound guided anesthetic techniques have a video-game-like feel and there is something powerful about taking away a signal of a nerve fiber that reaches a patient’s brain. With the increased picture capabilities of ultrasound, it excites me to be able to look at picture, identify the anatomy, and confidently know that the measure implemented will be almost 100% effective for the patient.
As for consulting, I love being in front of a room of people and being able to articulate both clinical concepts and my goals as they relate to the staffing industry. After hearing so many different situations from nurse counselling sessions through the years, I remain confident no matter what direction a conversation may go or wherever a question may take me. I enjoy explaining what Aya Healthcare can do for a hospital and I’m proud of the travel nurses that represent our company. We’ve become an elite travel nurse staffing company and streamlined into a business that fits well in the economy post-recession and Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act.
Please tell a short story of a time when you wanted to give up and quit, but you didn’t. In other words, what kept you hanging in there? Was it a patient? Was it your personal inner drive?
In nurse anesthesia school, there was a particular professor who just didn’t understand me. No matter what I tried to do to prove to her that I was serious about the profession I was studying, my efforts were not well received. It created an uncomfortable and taxing dynamic. I was constantly focused on trying to please her and meet her expectations and I lost focus on the big picture. Things between this professor and I wouldn’t be healed easily. Despite those obstacles, I wasn’t going to let them stand in the way of my dreams. I was consistent, passionate, and most importantly, determined to prove to her that I was going to be successful in this specialty.
Luckily, I had the most supportive teammate, my wife, consistently redirecting me in helping to accomplish my goals. She is my compass when I get lost. Without her love and support, it would have been impossible. In the end, if you don’t have your compass you could get lost in the emotional roller coaster that is nursing school. Whether your compass is a significant other, a friend, a family member or your own inner drive, when something is directing your path the road becomes much smoother.
What would you say are the most important changes that have happened in your field in the past few years?
The biggest change has been the opt-out states allowing independent practice of CRNAs in the field. Moving forward, in July the VA System will decide if APRNs including CRNAs have the right to practice independently in that federal system.
The implementations of electronic medical records and interactive flow sheets have also had a huge impact. They allow the CRNA to be more engaged in their patients’ care. It also puts a burden of action on the provider to work swiftly while delivering anesthesia. In my opinion, this type of accountability will become standard in the next 5-10 years.
In the staffing industry, I see a move toward full service healthcare agencies who can deliver quality providers quickly without much assistance from the client. If you can assess the skills of the nurse and integrate those skills into the client’s core staff population without much training; your company is achieving a measurable, quantitative, and accountable staffing model.
What one thing would you like to see changed as a nurse and as a consultant?
I’d like to see the profession of nurse anesthesia take a more proactive approach in how our voice is being heard. Moving forward, we have to be united in how we approach potential obstacles in front of us in order to protect the profession and our way of life.
As for being a director in the staffing industry, I’d like to work toward a more interactive model of travel nursing in which the client has an easier way to screen and interact with its potential travel nurses. We are working hard towards this at Aya Healthcare by creating new technology that makes it easier for healthcare facilities to track paperwork, screen and hire travel nurses.
What do you hope to have accomplished by the end of your career?
I’d like to be known as pioneer in my field. It may be a cliché answer, but it’s something not easily achieved. I think about astronauts and what they get to accomplish in their careers, they are a group of people who are always “the first” at doing something and that is an attitude that I emulate. Ultimately, I’d like to be a part of something that “was the first,” that changed the way we look at a particular subject. It makes no difference to me if my pioneering accomplishment is anesthesia related or travel nurse staffing related, I want to be part of a team that thinks outside the box and figures out new ways to approach problems.
If someone approached you and said: “I want to be just like you!” what advice would you give them?
My advice is quite simple. Ask yourself a few questions. How bad do you want to be a part of one of the most important professions in our society? How ambitious are you in accomplishing what it takes to be a part of the nursing community? Do you want to devote 12 hours of your day to meeting the needs of your patients? Can you advocate for what you feel to be the best options for your patients based off of their care plan?
If you can answer yes to all these things, then you have a bright future in nursing. It takes time, dedication, tears, and commitment to get the gratification you are seeking in this field. Nursing requires sacrifice. We work holidays and weekends. We sometimes work exhausting hours in the midst of tragedy or natural disaster. Nursing can be tough, but the rewards far outweigh the costs. At the end of the day, as a nurse you are committing to devoting your life to caring for others before yourself. Nurses save lives and there is no better feeling than that.
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