Endowment aids anesthesia program development

Erica Howard

The two-year journey to a new Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia program at FSU Panama City was completed this summer. After passing a thorough and costly accreditation and approval process, the campus will welcome the first cohort of students to begin classes Aug. 24.

The rigorous 28-month program will focus on patient care before, during and after surgical procedures, and emphasize analysis, evaluation and decision‐making rather than memorization. After passing the national certification exam, graduates can become Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) who provide anesthesia in collaboration with surgeons, anesthesiologists, dentists, podiatrists and other healthcare professionals.

“This program is huge not only for these students, but for future students for decades to come,” said program administrator Scarlett Hinson-Kradel, DNP, MSN, CRNA. “These students will touch thousands of lives.”

FSU Panama City administrators began researching and developing the nurse anesthesia program in April 2013. The program received approval by the FSU Graduate Policy Committee in April 2014 and the FSU Board of Trustees in June 2014.

In October 2014, the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) conducted an onsite capability review of the program and the clinical sites and awarded accreditation in January. In February, FSU submitted a substantive change prospectus to SACSCOC and received approval July 8 to offer the program effective fall 2015.

“This is not a trivial process. There are a number of procedures we had to follow to make sure that once we have a program in place that it is the quality that would be expected,” FSU Panama City Interim Dean Leach said at a press conference announcing the approval of the program. “This has been quite a journey, to say the least.”

In addition to the cost of new faculty, course development and equipment, fees and travel expenses for accrediting bodies totaled $22,353, which was funded by the Endowment for the College of Applied Studies.

The program also depends on the support of medical professionals at clinical sites throughout the community to offer students hands-on experience in the “art of anesthesia,” noted associate program administrator Rusty Gentry, DNAP, MSNA, MSN, CRNA. Students begin working with area medical professional and patients in the first week of classes.

“What distinguishes this program and this campus from 115 other nurse anesthesia programs in this country is the support from the local community,” Hinson-Kradel said.

To be admitted in the limited-access program, applicants must have a bachelor’s degree from an accredited college or university in nursing or a health-related science, such as biology, chemistry or physics. They must have worked as a registered nurse for at least one year in a critical care environment and submit references from a physician, a supervisor and a CRNA familiar with the applicant’s desire to become a nurse anesthetist.

Of the 59 nurses who applied during the condensed three-week application window for the fall 2015 semester, 24 transfer and 24 new students were selected. The first cohort of students includes nurses from Alabama, Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Texas and Washington, D.C. Administrators anticipate receiving 700 to 800 applications during the regular application window each year.

“We really are attracting quality individuals. We are attracting knowledge and excellence, and that in itself is great for our medical community,” said Ahmad Oussama Rifai, M.D., a Bay County nephrologist. “[This program] is a blessing for the medical community, current citizens and for generations to come.”

“This program will command a commitment from students at the inception,” Gentry said. “For those who persevere, their degree will be recognized nationally and they will possess the ability to provide competent and safe anesthesia on their very first day at work.”

With the implementation of the program, FSU Panama City is carrying on a legacy of nurse anesthetist training in Bay County, Hinson-Kradel noted.

The Bay Medical Center School of Nurse Anesthesia, Florida’s first nurse anesthesia school, began as a certificate program in Bay County in 1969 under the direction of Irv Holzman, CRNA. From there, the Gooding Institute of Nurse Anesthesia was championed by anesthesiologist John Gooding, M.D.

Since 1969, the schools trained more than 350 CRNAs who went on to practice nurse anesthesia throughout the country. Both have since closed.

“Continued support from the local medical community and health care facilities in which they practice is paramount to the success of the program and is, in fact, a major reason the program continues to produce exceptional clinicians,” said anesthesiologist Brian Kradel, M.D., who was a partner of Gooding’s and assumed the position of medical director of the Gooding Institute in 1993. Kradel will continue serving as liaison between the medical community, anesthesia groups and program administrators at FSU Panama City.

“Bay County has a long and distinguished history of providing nurse anesthetists to the local community and communities nationwide,” Hinson-Kradel said. “With the approval of the new master’s program, FSU will continue this tradition and partnership with the local health care industry, in the provision of highly skilled practitioners for years to come.”

To adhere to a mandate by the nurse anesthesia program’s accrediting body, administrators also are developing courses to convert the master’s program into a doctoral degree program. COA has mandated that students accepted into accredited entry-level nurse anesthesia programs on or after Jan. 1, 2022, must graduate with doctoral degrees.

“This campus is very interested in serving the community, and it’s not just a matter of what kinds of degrees we can offer, but what degrees are needed in this area,” Leach said.

Florida State developed the College of Applied Studies, which is housed at FSU Panama City, in 2010 to meet the educational needs of the region.

The college houses bachelor’s degree programs in Recreation, Tourism and Events; Public Safety and Security; and Professional Communication; master’s degree programs in Corporate and Public Communication and Nurse Anesthesia; and certificate programs in Underwater Crime Scene Investigation and Event Management.

The Endowment for the College of Applied Studies, which supports program development and student scholarships through investment income, was established with separate $300,000 commitments from the St. Joe Community Foundation and Gulf Power. Other major contributors have included Floyd and Gloria Skinner, Jim and Jan Cook, Bill and Carolyn Cramer, John Hutt Jr., Marion G. and Barbara W. Nelson Foundation, and Community Services Foundation, with a combined commitment of $280,000.

As of June 15, the endowment’s current principal totals almost $700,000, generating $28,000 in spendable earnings annually. A $1.25 million endowment would produce $50,000 annually.

For more information on contributing to the Endowment for the College of Applied Studies, call FSU Panama City Director of Development Mary Beth Lovingood at 850-770-2108 or email mblovingood@pc.fsu.edu.