This essay is from a finalist for the 2020 Student Loan Planner Scholarship.
My name is Bryan Elrod. I am a husband, a father of three beautiful children, and a newly graduated CRNA from Loma Linda University.
In 2017, we made the decision as a family to pursue my dream of becoming a CRNA and in the process gave up much of the financial stability we had worked so hard to build. After I was accepted to Loma Linda, we began the process of liquidating everything we could to build up our savings to survive while I was in school and unable to work.
I took a second job to pay down our debt, we had multiple yard sales, sold our home, and moved our children of six, four, and two-years-old to a new city where we knew no one and had no income. We survived on food stamps, help from family, and the money we had saved.
While we were able to make ends meet, we were not able to pay anything on the federal loans I was using to pay for my education. This was new for us, as I was able to complete all my previous education debt-free by applying for scholarships and working extra hours to pay tuition costs.
I did this successfully through my four years at community college for my Associate Degree RN and my Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing at Western Governors University. We had faith if we could get through school, the income I earned as a CRNA would enable us to rebuild and what we sacrificed to get there.
In December 2019, as the end of my CRNA program approached, our family excitedly planned for 2020. We would move back home to our family; I would start my new job and we would spend more time together as a family.
As COVID swept the country, it was easy to see graduating from school as a CRNA and entering the workforce as an anesthesia provider in 2020 would be unlike any other time in history. Stories of overflowing ICU’s, overwhelmed hospital staff, and healthcare providers becoming sick and even dying were hitting the headlines. As a family, we did what most families did – we quarantined at home and did everything we could to keep our family safe
My CRNA certification exam was delayed as testing centers closed because of the pandemic and our family continued to watch our savings dwindle.
Thankfully, weeks later, we received a reprieve. An exemption was made for healthcare personnel who had been unable to take mandatory exams to receive or renew required certifications due to the now-closed testing centers. Testing resumed, and I successfully completed my exams.
I was finally able to start working as a CRNA in June of this year. While our family once again was earning an income, we also now dealt with the stress about whether or not I would become sick with COVID, bring it home to my family or pass it to people I love.
In our home in California, we saw a rise in COVID-positive case numbers, full ICUs and an increasingly dismal trend in COVID-related deaths. My role as an anesthesia provider at the County facility has been a challenging one, as we are called upon to perform intubations, a procedure which has shown to create one of the highest exposure risks to healthcare providers working with COVID patients.
Given this and despite this, I am grateful to have a job, have my family and have so far remained healthy. I am proud to work at my hospital, which serves most of the uninsured patients in our community, many of whom are immigrant farm workers, themselves struggling.
My family and I are now focused on keeping safe and looking forward to the future, which includes tackling my student loan dept of $170.000 dollars, as well as saving for a house, rebuilding our emergency fund in the event I become sick, and trying to catch up on the years of retirement savings I missed out on while attending school.
At times, I have felt overwhelmed with the question of how to meet these financial goals of ours, while simultaneously worrying about whether I will even be able to work if I get sick from COVID.
Getting current advice from the team at studentloanplanner.com has given me information that has increased my confidence in my ability to tackle the looming student loan debt my family is under. The emails I receive from Travis that discuss current events and how they can impact student loan debt have been particularly helpful given the current volatility in government. Things will likely change again in the coming months for what student loan borrowers can expect. Particularly with the upcoming Presidential election, resources to help borrowers plan for their specific situations will be more important than ever, and your team is who I will be relying upon for that information.
Should I be selected for this scholarship, it would be the first payment I would make to my current loans. Whether I am selected or not, I will continue to rely on the information on your website and hope to obtain a consultation to discuss which financial plan will fit our family nest while still meeting my loan obligations, predominantly as student loan laws continue to evolve.
Thank you from the bottom of my heart for your time and your consideration. Please stay safe in these challenging times.