Nurse anesthesia program earns maximum accreditation

Western Carolina University’s master’s degree program in nurse anesthesia recently was granted reaccreditation by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs, becoming one of just a handful of such programs in the nation to receive the organization’s stamp of approval for the maximum 10-year period.

In a letter notifying WCU officials of the reaccreditation, council Executive Director Francis Gerbasi wrote that very few nurse anesthesia programs are granted accreditation with no progress reports required, and even fewer programs achieve the maximum accreditation of 10 years. “Therefore, the directors of the COA are particularly pleased to offer their congratulations to everyone at the program who has demonstrated their commitment to meeting the requirements for continued accreditation,” Gerbasi wrote.

Mason McDowell, interim director and assistant professor in WCU’s nurse anesthesia program, said the program received its initial five-year accreditation in the fall of 2006. The new accreditation was granted following an extensive self-study and two-day site evaluation by accreditation reviewers.

“Earning the maximum reaccreditation really validated a lot of planning and hard work,” McDowell said. “Our ability to recruit and train the highest quality graduate students is directly related to the level of support we have received from the university and the regional hospitals that provide access for our students to train. I am proud to say we have a program that is recognized as one of the best in the country.”

The WCU program began enrolling students in 2007 graduated its first class in 2009. A 28-month program in WCU’s School of Nursing, it requires a minimum of 66 course credits and prepares students to take a national certification examination. Graduates have scored a 100 overall percent pass rate on the examination since the program’s inception.

Classes are held at WCU’s new instructional site at Biltmore Park Town Square and at various clinical sites in Western North Carolina. The Biltmore Park facility houses a new high-fidelity anesthesia simulation center where students can receive training on the most advanced human patient simulator on the market.

For more information about WCU’s master’s degree program in nurse anesthesia, contact McDowell at 828-654-6508 or

Nurse anesthesia students have an opportunity to train on the most advanced human patient simulator available. The simulator is located at WCU’s new instructional site at Biltmore Park Town Square.