CONTACT: Patricia Harris
283 Medical Laboratories
Iowa City IA 52242
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First class of anesthesia nursing program to complete studies
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- The first class of Iowa's only continuing program to prepare
nurse anesthetists will finish their studies at the University of Iowa College
of Nursing Feb. 21.
This first class started the program in the fall of 1994. Since then they've
spent countless hours in the classroom and operating room learning from some
of the most renowned specialists in their field.
Wayne Ellis, UI assistant professor of nursing, is director of the program.
He says the goals of the program are to train anesthesia practitioners for
rural areas, to train students to be excellent researchers and to give students
a very strong clinical base in their education.
"This is an extremely intense program," Ellis says. "I estimate
they spend about 64 hours a week in class or in the operating room."
Students in the program learn all current anesthesia techniques and agents,
Ellis says. They also provide care to patients of every age and severity of
condition to prepare them for any kind of situation they may face in their
future practice options.
Iowa is one of a handful of states that allow nurse anesthetists to practice
without supervision. However, students says the program has been flexible
enough that they can use their skills on their own or in partnership with
"There are a wide variety of work experiences," says Ann Ryden,
a student in the program's first class. "You can work as a team with
an anesthesiologist or independently."
Jennifer Crownhart called her education "clinically rich," noting
that students graduate with about 1,000 clinical experiences under their respective
belts. That is about twice the amount required for certification .
Each student is required to perform two rotations in hospitals or private
practices in rural Iowa. A rural rotation in Bloomfield, Iowa led to a permanent
position for Valerie McKinley. A resident of Moravia (near Ottumwa), McKinley
has been commuting back and forth to the UI for the past two-and-a-half years.
Bloomfield is near her home, and she says she's glad for the opportunity to
return to her husband and two children permanently.
Despite the hardship of being away from her family during much of the program,
McKinley says the program was a good preparation for her new job.
"There are some very challenging cases at the university. The
university takes cases other hospitals can't," she says. "It's an
excellent preparation for very complex cases. That will assist me in private
Other students in this first class of five are Shannon Pecka and Tara Salrin.
Students complete various month-long rotations in medical specialties like
cardiovascular surgery and pediatrics. There is also a required rotation in
the obstetrics department of the University of Nebraska at Omaha Medical Center.
The students must also sit for a national certifying examination administered
by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Council on Certification
of Nurse Anesthetists. At graduation students will receive their Master of
Science in Nursing (MSN) degree with a specialization in anesthesia nursing.
The UI program requires a bachelor of science in nursing and one year of critical
care nursing before admittance.