It didn’t take Mindy Miller long to know that nurse anesthesia was the profession for her. After her mother, also a nurse and hospital administrator, arranged for Mindy to shadow several advanced practice nurses, she followed a CRNA and found her calling. Since then she has devoted her career to providing anesthesia access to Iowans across central Iowa and advocating for nurse anesthetists at both the state and federal level.
Miller, the 2013 recipient of the Ira P. Gunn Award for Outstanding Professional Advocacy awarded by the AANA, was recently recognized as one of Iowa’s 100 Great Nurses of 2020. Her relentless efforts to advance and protect the practice rights of CRNAs are known both state and nationwide. Iowa’s geography, population, and number of critical access hospitals have created an environment that helps connect CRNAs throughout the state and has developed a tightknit network of anesthetists who share the same goals of advancing nurse anesthesia in Iowa. It’s no surprise that since the Ira P. Gunn Award was established in 2000, four recipients have come from Iowa: Bill Miller, Mary O’Brien, Keith Barnhill, and Mindy. She recognizes the importance mentorship has had in developing her own skills, particularly the efforts of IANA President Bill Miller while Mindy was a SRNA at the University of Iowa. “He was a leader who heavily involved the students and truly made us feel as though we were a part of the membership from the very first meeting. He told me later that he identified my ability to talk to people and my passion for nursing.” While attending multiple political fundraisers and presidential campaign events, Mindy learned Bill Miller’s views on talking to government and political officials and began honing her own skills as well. Upon graduating, Mindy began practicing in Des Moines which afforded her the opportunity to more easily connect with government officials at the state capitol and the IANA lobbying team. When Iowa CRNAs had to fight for their right to practice chronic pain management – all the way up to the Iowa Supreme Court – Ms. Miller again looked to other Iowa CRNAs for advice. “Mary O’Brien and Mark Odden helped me learn very quickly the ways to push an agenda and prepare for a battle.” Since then Ms. Miller has been incredibly active in both the state and national associations, serving on the state board as a director, treasurer, vice president, and president. She has been the State Government Relations chairperson for the last 8 years. She served on the AANA GRC Committee from 2010-2015, the final three years as chairperson.
Mindy recognizes the challenges that CRNAs will continue to face and the importance of advocating for our profession. “Any profession that exists with a similar physician counterpart must heighten their advocacy to the highest level possible. Elected officials, who ultimately can shape your scope of practice, must know your education, training, and professional experience. Developing legislative and agency relationships provides allies and a true voice.” For individuals who want to get more involved but aren’t sure how, Ms. Miller recommends identifying a mentor for themselves to help them traverse this new environment. “Mentors who can also be by your side to be there every step of the way until you are ready to fly solo. Lastly, be a routine presence at your state association meetings, networking is the first step to knowing your colleagues and having them get to know you.” Mindy doesn’t just talk the talk. She has been active in the Student Mentoring Program at AANA meetings and is seen by many throughout the nurse anesthesia community as their own mentor. “I have had many mentors along the way but Mindy has helped me along the path of grassroots advocacy,” says IANA’s Sarah Tweedy. “I was hesitant to speak to legislators initially, but she helped me find my voice, and now I am a member of the GRC Committee, I attend as many local legislative events as I can, and I am one of the Federal Political Directors for our state association. I love advocating for my profession and that is, in large part, due to Mindy.”
Mindy Miller is currently the owner of Heartland Anesthesia and Consulting based in Ankeny, which she has been operating for the past 14 years. Prior to that, she worked in an ACT-model in the Des Moines area. Her experiences as a student rotating to critical access hospitals throughout the state and meeting rural practice CRNAs at state association meetings provided her with a wealth of connections so that when the opportunity ultimately presented itself she had the courage and confidence to blaze her own path. Today her company provides anesthesia services for 7 critical access hospitals, 1 surgery center, 2 ketamine clinics, and 2 dental offices.
Congratulations to Mindy Miller. You are truly one of Iowa’s Greatest Nurses.