Flavored lip gloss choices and monkey feet jokes—Anice Wheeler will do whatever she can to comfort a child entering the operating room.
She has worked as a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) for 37 years in Monroe. CRNAs collaborate with anesthesiologists and surgeons to ensure the safe administration of anesthesia. An employee of Specialty Management Services of Ouachita, she works at both P&S Surgical Hospital and Monroe Surgical Hospital.
“I love working with kids; I’ve always liked to interact with children, even during anesthesia school.”
Wheeler strives to ease a child’s anxiety. Before asking a child to breathe into an anesthesia machine, which is attached to a bag that resembles a balloon, she employs a trick that involves distraction.
“We talk about blowing up balloons. Sometimes I tell the child the balloon smells like fingernail polish, or I will ask, ‘Have you ever been to the zoo and smelled monkey feet? That’s what this balloon smells like.’ Oftentimes they will laugh and say, ‘Yuck, yes it does!’”
Wheeler and her fellow CRNAs—who also manage the pharmaceuticals, the machinery, and the patient needs during surgery—give the children his or her choice of scented masks.
“We just make it fun for them, and we try to put them at ease. We have some masks that smell like bubblegum and some that smell like strawberries. Before we got the scented masks, I used to let them pick grape, strawberry, or watermelon lip gloss, and I’d put a little gloss inside the mask,” she laughed. “We do what we can because it’s scary for the children, especially the toddlers who do not understand what is happening.”
Wheeler, who grew up in Mobile, Alabama and graduated from the University of South Alabama, worked as a nurse for six years before earning her CRNA degree at the University of South Alabama Medical Center for Anesthesia. Her passion for her CRNA career never waned.
“CRNA work is not routine, and working in pediatrics is very rewarding,” she said.
She also enjoys working in Monroe, as it has allowed her to build life-long friendships. “I like the people—the physicians and my fellow CRNAs—that I work with. We can count on each other because we work as a team. It’s like working with friends.”
One such physician is Dr. Lauren J. Mickey, an ear, nose, and throat specialist on staff at P&S Surgical Hospital. Dr. Mickey has worked with Wheeler since 1986.
“I love Anice. She has always been really good at her job, and always professional.”
Dr. Mickey is not alone in recognizing Wheeler’s contributions.
Wheeler remembers an incident that left her feeling “amazed.”
“One thing that happened, which was really surprising to me, was when I entered a bank and the teller said, ‘You performed my epidural.’ I asked, ‘How in the world do you know that?’ She said, ‘Because I recognize your voice.’ And I thought, wow, maybe I do make an impact.”
By Laura Clark