I was born in South Bend, Indiana in September 1942. Shortly after that our family moved to Rockford, Illinois, where my father was an insurance executive and my mother was a housewife. Dad was transferred in 1946 and we moved to Minneapolis, where I grew up and was educated.
After high school I attended the University of Minnesota and pursued a course of study in mathematics, hoping someday to work for the government in the fledgling space program. While at the university, I worked part time as an orderly at one of the large Minneapolis city hospitals and loved it. I was especially fond of the times I was called to work in the operating room because I was right where the action was, especially at the head of the table with the Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) and watching them make decisions about the patient’s status during surgery and giving the drugs that kept them safe and asleep. The hospital had a nurse anesthesia program, and in talking to the CRNAs and students about their experiences, I was convinced that I needed to change my career plans and get into that field right away.
In June of 1966, after three years of mathematic studies, I left the university and entered the three year Registered Nursing diploma program at Abbott Hospital in Minneapolis. I ended up being the only male student in the class. I graduated in June 1969 and three months later passed my nursing boards to become a Registered Nurse. In November 1969 I was accepted into the nurse anesthesia program at the Minneapolis School of Anesthesia.
The anesthesia program at the Minneapolis School was eighteen months of morning clinicals, rotating to five large metropolitan hospitals, and three days a week of afternoon classes. After the first month we were allowed to do cases by ourselves with a CRNA there to help us start the case and available if we had any problems. We also took emergency calls with a CRNA for backup. It was probably one of the most well-rounded programs in existence then because the anesthesia departments at those hospitals all had different approaches and equipment to accomplish the same thing, which allowed me to see and employ many different techniques in administering anesthesia and served me well in the years that followed when I was alone doing emergency cases in the middle of the night.
After graduation I moved to Bemidji, Minnesota in 1971 with my wife and two young children. I went into practice with one other CRNA where we worked in a one hundred bed hospital doing all the anesthesia for scheduled and emergency call cases. Eventually we hired one full time and two part time CRNAs to split up the case load and calls. I stayed there for sixteen years, then moved to the Tampa Bay area of Florida in 1987 where I finished my career in a large, mixed group of anesthesiologists and CRNAs.
Praise for 50 Years in the OR
“Ron Whitchurch has the observation, wit and insight of a modern day Mark Twain and the eyebrows and mustache to match.”
— Koco Eaton, MD, ABOS, Team Physician, Tampa Bay Rays
“An extraordinary book which brilliantly and compellingly conveys the day-to-day workings of the operating room. What is amazing is how one person could have seen and experienced so much. The chapters are interesting, insightful, hilarious, sometimes sardonic yet compassionate.”
— Kevin M Sweeney, MD, board-certified neurosurgeon, former chief of Neurosurgery of Mease hospitals in Dunedin and Clearwater, Florida
“I loved reading this wonderful collection of triumphs, tragedies, near misses, and so many funny situations in the OR. Ron is a keen observer of the quirks and ironies of life in surgery and a colorful storyteller. A fascinating glimpse at the world on the other side of the drapes.”
— Antonio J Gayoso, MD, ASPS, ASAPS