Nurse anesthesia program gains accreditation, begins in January

A new master’s degree program in nurse anesthesia that will begin at Western Carolina University in January is expected to help alleviate the shortage of certified nurse anesthetists in Western North Carolina and benefit regional health care providers as they deal with an increasing demand for surgical services.

WCU’s department of nursing received word recently that the university’s program has been accredited by the Council on Accreditation of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists, clearing the way for the program to begin with the start of the spring semester, said Vincent Hall, associate professor and department head.

Students who successfully complete the 28-month program will earn a master of science in nursing degree from WCU and will be prepared to take a national certification examination. Students will complete a minimum of 67 hours of credit while taking required nursing courses and anesthesia specialty courses, Hall said.

The program will integrate research, physiology, pharmacology, pathophysiology and anesthesia principles, he said. Twelve students have signed up to begin the program in January.

A key in WCU’s efforts to begin the nurse anesthesia program was the development of an endowed distinguished professorship in that field. Expected to be filled soon, the position will be occupied by an individual who will bring to the program national-level expertise in nurse anesthetist education, Hall said.

The $500,000 professorship is the result of a collaboration involving the university and 12 regional health care providers, including hospitals and providers of anesthesiology services. The health care providers contributed half of the $500,000 endowment, with the remainder coming from a state match.

Contributors were Park Ridge Hospital, Blue Ridge HealthCare, Table Rock Anesthesiology Services, Mission Hospitals, WestCare Health System, Haywood Regional Medical Center, Murphy Medical Center, Asheville Anesthesiology Associates, Angel Medical Center, Spruce Pine Community Hospital, Transylvania Community Hospital and McDowell Hospital.

Although no space remains in the nurse anesthesia class that begins the program in January, WCU’s department of nursing will begin taking applications in late spring 2007 for a group that will begin the program in January 2008. The deadline for receiving applications is June 15, 2007.

For more information about WCU’s master’s degree program in nurse anesthesia, contact Hall at (828) 227-7467 or by e-mail at hallv@wcu.edu.