Baltimore, Md. – The University of Maryland School of Nursing recently received accreditation for a new nurse anesthesia master's program, and will begin classes this fall. Nurse anesthetists are advanced practice nurses who administer anesthesia to patients for both major and minor procedures. Nationally, more than 65 percent of the 26 million anesthetics administered each year are given by certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs).
According to a recent Maryland Hospital Association survey, nurse anesthetists have the highest job vacancy rate (16.6 percent in 2003 and 22 percent in 2002) of the 42 job categories surveyed. This shortfall will only grow as the state's over-65 population increases, according to Patricia Gonce Morton, PhD, RN, ACNP, FAAN, assistant dean for master's studies at the School of Nursing. "This CRNA shortage has an impact on health care, especially among the state's underserved and rural populations, where CRNAs administer the majority of anesthesia," says Morton, who helped spearhead the new nurse anesthesia program.
The School was asked to start a CRNA program by the Maryland chapter of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists due to the shortage and because there was no nurse anesthesia program in the state, Morton explains. "The reasons for the CRNA shortage are many," says Caleb Rogovin, MS, CRNA, CCRN, CEN, assistant director of the nurse anesthesia program. "One key reason is greater demand. People are living longer and undergoing more medical and surgical procedures than ever before. For these, they need anesthesia."
The School's nurse anesthesia master's is a 72-credit program that will take 2-1/2 years to complete and will offer students clinical experiences at the University of Maryland Medical Center, the Veterans Affairs Medical Center, Kernan Hospital, and other hospitals around the state. Admission to the nurse anesthesia program is already competitive. According to Morton, the School received more than 45 applications for a mere 18 slots.
Frankie Purifoy, BSN, RN, who will be part of the first nurse anesthesia program class, was working as a traveling nurse at Sinai Hospital when she heard about the new program from a colleague. "I love the autonomy and critical thinking that is involved in the specialty," says Purifoy, who was interested in becoming a CRNA even before she finished nursing school. "Nurse anesthesia will keep me stimulated throughout my career. I can't wait for classes to start."
The School of Nursing's nurse anesthesia program will be directed by Mark Kossick, CRNA, DNSc, who will come to the School from the University of Alabama at Birmingham later this summer.