Pageant Winner, YouTuber, and Soon-to-Be Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist

By Matt Nazario-Miller, SMU News

Miss Black New York USA winner and nurse anesthetist student Rhaven McIver, CRNA '21, talks about her path to SMU and how she uses the power of personal videos to help others understand what to expect from the Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia program.

When did you know you were interested in anesthesia?

I knew I wanted to be a nurse anesthetist before I even graduated from my bachelor's in nursing degree program. I met someone who was a nurse anesthetist when I was in my obstetrics and gynecology rotation, and I was fascinated with the job. I worked for five years as a nurse before I came back to school to pursue my master's.

Why nurse anesthesia?

I once shadowed a nurse anesthetist at work, and I fell in love with the autonomy as well as the variety of cases and procedures nurse anesthetists were involved in. It’s never a dull day in anesthesia work!

CRNAs have played a critical role in treating patients during the pandemic. Does that make you nervous?

The pandemic has definitely made me feel nervous. Nurse anesthetists are known to be airway experts as a large part of our job is intubating patients under general anesthesia for surgery. Due to our expertise, during this pandemic, we have been called on to help intubate patients in respiratory failure due to COVID-19. Manipulating COVID-19 positive airways is not ideal, but I understand it is part of the profession. I am always sure to protect myself as best I can while working with patients.

What attracted you to SMU?

I specifically chose Samuel Merritt because I wanted to get out of New York City. I've always wanted to live in California, and when I was researching programs, SMU stood out to me as a program with faculty that really care about their students and their well-being. I had two friends who went to the program who could attest to what I’d heard about Samuel Merritt’s faculty caring about the students and not being just another number in their class. I’d also heard that Samuel Merritt had clinical sites where you can get a variety of experiences, which is something I wanted to have while undergoing training in nurse anesthesia.

You’ve appreciated your clinical experience at SMU. Why?

The clinical experience has helped shape me into who I am today. It’s shown me that I can adapt to many situations and I’m stronger than I think I am—the early mornings, the late days, the long shifts—they’ve all shown me that there are really no bounds to what I can do. If you would have told me that I would get through this program the way I have, I wouldn’t have believed it. It’s all made me a stronger person.

How did you start making YouTube videos? Why?

I started making videos because I would get a lot of questions about going to CRNA school from people who follow me on social media or people I met in everyday life that wanted to know about the process of applying. I had the same questions when I was applying, and I thought it would be nice to help other people and to have everything in one place to reference in video form instead of writing paragraphs each time I answered similar questions.

I really want to see the nurse anesthesia world be more diverse, and I feel like this also helps with that. People who look like me are watching my videos, and people that didn’t know about nurse anesthesia are finding out about this field through my YouTube channel.

You’re Miss Black New York USA. When and how did you start competing in pageants?

I did pageants from age 16 to 28. In each category, you have to strive to be your best. The pageant competition categories are interview, swimsuit, and poise (wearing an evening gown). I prepared for my interviews, I practiced my walk, and I pushed my limits every time. I was always so proud of myself knowing that I had a goal, and I focused, and I got on that stage looking my best. I competed in Miss New York USA in 2013, 2014, and 2015, and I made the semifinals (Top 15) each time. I won “best interview” in 2015. I won the title Miss Black New York USA 2017, and I also placed top 10 at Miss Connecticut USA 2018.

Is there a connection between pageants and graduate school in your mind?

I think that being in graduate school is kind of the same thing. A lot of people want to be here, you had to do a lot of stuff to be here—you had to graduate from college, you had to interview for the program, you had to get certain grades in school, you had to take entrance exams like the GRE. All those things got me where I am and allowed me to be successful in my field today. The pageants taught me perseverance and to keep my eyes on the prize.

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