The New Mexico State University School of Nursing, housed in the College of Health and Social Services, is exploring the feasibility of developing a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree concentration in nurse anesthesiology. The program would train graduate students to become advanced practice nurses who administer anesthesia for surgery or other medical procedures. | NMSU photo by Darren Phillips
The New Mexico State University School of Nursing is exploring the feasibility of developing a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree concentration in nurse anesthesiology that would focus on rural health and health disparities. It would be the first program of its kind in New Mexico.
The proposed three-year program would train graduate students to become advanced practice nurses who administer anesthesia for surgery or other medical procedures. It would include a rigorous curriculum of didactic courses and require more than 2,000 hours of supervised clinical training. Graduates of nurse anesthesiology programs are qualified to take a national certification exam to become certified registered nurse anesthetists, or CRNAs.
CRNAs are often the only anesthesia providers in rural health centers and critical access hospitals across New Mexico, and more hospitals today are depending on CRNAs to manage critically ill COVID-19 patients who require mechanical ventilation.
The NMSU School of Nursing has been working on the program proposal in collaboration with CRNAs from the New Mexico Association of Nurse Anesthetists and local medical groups for the past nine months, said Alexa Doig, director of the school, one of three academic departments in the College of Health and Social Services at NMSU. The school is developing the program, in part, to address the workforce need of anesthesia providers in New Mexico, Doig said.
“The NMSU School of Nursing is excited to develop a program that would educate anesthesia providers who are committed to addressing the health care needs of New Mexico and the surrounding region,” she said. “New Mexico’s hospitals have a critical need for anesthesia providers due to nationwide shortages and difficulty recruiting providers to the state, especially to rural health care centers. Without anesthesia providers, surgeries and some medical procedures cannot take place.”
Doig said she hopes the proposed program will attract nursing students who want to further their education as CRNAs but wish to remain in New Mexico. Currently, students interested in the specialty have to enroll in programs outside New Mexico and frequently do not return to the state after graduation.
NMSU alumnus and Las Cruces resident William Morlan recently completed a 28-month program at Keiser University in Florida to earn a master’s degree in nurse anesthesia. Morlan, a two-time Aggie graduate, has a bachelor’s degree in nursing from the School of Nursing and an associate degree in nursing from Doña Ana Community College.
“I became interested in pursuing a career in anesthesiology after I injured my back in high school and needed surgery. The anesthesiologist was the most pleasant person at the hospital during that experience,” Morlan said. “I had always wanted to get my master’s degree, but after I graduated from NMSU, life happened, and I didn’t get that opportunity until two years ago.”
Morlan, who plans to work as a full-time CRNA at Memorial Medical Center in Las Cruces, believes the proposed program at NMSU would be a welcomed addition to the School of Nursing, and help to draw in more students from around the region, especially those seeking careers in New Mexico. But, he said, students should prepare for a demanding, challenging program.
“CRNA programs, regardless of the school, are highly competitive and academically demanding and challenging,” he said. “Students should prepare for a rigorous but rewarding educational experience. Completing the program at Keiser University was the hardest thing I’ve done.”
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Author: Carlos Andres Lopez – NMSU