Meet Micah McCanna, Nursing Student and Winter Sports Athlete

Nursing : News : Micah McCanna
Senior ABSN student Micah McCanna
balances nursing school with serious
training for Olympic winter sports in
Lake Placid, N.Y.


Micah McCanna says he likes to stay busy, and he certainly does that. The senior accelerated BSN student has figured out how to balance training for bobsled and skeleton winter sports with class, clinical, studying, an honors project, spending time with his fiancé, and working at UNC Hospitals.

McCanna is part of the USA Olympic Elite Developmental Skeleton team. Skeleton is a fast winter sliding sport where the competitor rides face down on a small sled down a frozen track. People are quite surprised to hear that this North Carolina native who played on the East Carolina University baseball team is competing in winter sports. Ironically, McCanna says he doesn’t even like cold weather. It is the competition he craves.

“I got really interested in bobsled and skeleton during the last two Winter Olympic games,” he says. “I looked up the athletic requirements for these sports and realized I had the strength and speed.” He submitted an athletic resume and then went through a series of physical tests last year.

He did so well in the physical tests that he made the Elite team, which means he only pays for his travel. He trains with the team in Lake Placid, N.Y., experiencing forces up to 5 g.

His performance in a national skeleton race in March will be factored with the results of his physical tests to determine if he gets a place on one of the U.S. National Skeleton Teams. The best competitors each year race in the World Cup, and the Olympic team is typically picked from these top racers.

Late last year, a bobsled driver who competed in the last Winter Olympics surprised McCanna with an invitation to join his four-man team. McCanna races with this team in the America’s Cup in January.

Both these sports require McCanna to travel to Lake Placid for training and to act as a forerunner in races. Forerunners test the track so that the competitors can see how the conditions and changes in the track are affecting the sleds. McCanna likens this to being a test dummy, and sometimes it can be quite dangerous.

Micah McCanna

Balancing Nursing School and Training
McCanna trains constantly. He works out about 3.5 hours a day and follows that with an hour of icing and other treatments to help with muscle soreness. This he does on top of two days a week spent meeting clinical experience requirements for nursing school (typically 6-hours each day) and classes on other days.

He says that the long practices for the East Carolina baseball team helped him develop the time management skills needed to balance school and training. He also gives the School of Nursing faculty a lot of credit for being flexible with him. They have allowed him to take tests early or to make up the few days of clinical he had to miss. His good grades have helped them be willing to work with him. “This wouldn’t have happened without them,” says McCanna.

McCanna has even taken on an honors project in which he’s examining extubation times in the Cardiothoracic Intensive Care Unit (CTICU) at UNC Hospitals. “I’m doing a literature review and a comparative analysis of extubation times as related to recovery time and severity of surgeries,” he says. He also has a per diem position as a certified nursing assistant in the CTICU.

He really likes the many options for future paths that come with a nursing degree. And his choice of nursing is already proving to have advantages. “My teammates tell me they can’t get a job because a nine to five job five days a week would not allow them to train. With nursing I can work per diem,” he says. This income helps McCanna pay for equipment, and having good equipment is an important part of the sport, sometimes as important as skill. A new sled can cost up to $6,000.

What’s next? McCanna is interested in going to school to be a nurse anesthetist after he graduates and would love to work in the CTICU at UNC Hospitals. But keep watching, the Olympics could very well be in his future as well.

You can keep up with McCanna at See videos at