Loma Linda University School of Nursing re-established the Nurse Anesthesia program at LLU 6 years ago with the specific goal of providing advanced practice nursing graduate students with a highly competitive program that combines advanced clinical experience with a spiritual foundation, carrying the LLUSN tradition into a new graduate discipline. With four cohorts of CRNA graduates officially completed and working in the clinical setting so far, the initial objective of the program has clearly come to fruition. The faculty are not letting the success of Nurse Anesthesia concentration slow the momentum of efforts to develop the program further.
The nurse anesthesia program is undergoing a renaissance at Loma Linda University, both in education and practice. This year, the CRNA program received a successful 10 year reaccreditation by the Council of Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs, which is the highest any program can receive. Program director and assistant professor, Dr. Kurt Cao says,“Very few programs are granted accreditation with no progress report required and even fewer achieve the maximum reaccreditation period. Our program achieved both marks of distinction this year. These are strong indicators of the rigorous nature of our curriculum and the effectiveness of our program at preparing nurse anesthetists for successful entry into practice.”
The CRNA program is one of the School of Nursing’s most competitive graduate programs, and with good reason. The curriculum presents each cohort with a two and a half year continuous schedule of advanced performance and time demands, requiring discipline and commitment on an intense level even for a standard graduate program. Director of Admissions & Clinical Education and Assistant Professor, Dr. Eric Molina explains how this is paying off, saying, "Our graduates consistently report their satisfaction on their readiness for practice. Graduates enter all types of practice settings (hospital, private, surgery centers and office-based) and send back praises to the LLUSN CRNA program for the structure and design of the clinical phase which prepared them to hit the ground running."
Against the backdrop of the program’s high demands, the performance of the most recent graduating CRNA cohort is a perfect reflection of the high quality of students being accepted. It is with great joy and humble spirits that LLUSN celebrates the CRNA Class of 2017’s 100% National Certification first time passing rate, as well as 100% employment within 6 months of graduation. "10 year accreditation and 100% first-time pass rate are benchmarks for any program's quality and effectiveness,” says Dr. Molina regarding the significance of the marks. “Our faculty have over 50 years of training students and diversity in professional practice history. We have focused the CRNA program to provide quality training, expert faculty, student friendly course progression, and evidence-based education which has shown excellent outcomes in a short period of time. The quality of our graduates continues to exceed expectations and has created a high demand to hire our graduates right out of training."
Dr. Susan Lloyd, Associate Dean of the Graduate Program at LLUSN, describes the importance of the continuing the momentum of the program saying, “Advanced Practice Nurse Anesthesia students have traditionally been trained with Master’s degrees to provide anesthesia administration to different patients, populations and communities in many different settings. Currently there is a national push to expand CRNA education to the doctoral level from certification and accreditation bodies. LLUSN is responding to this need to provide higher level curriculum and programming. This will enable students to become clinical scholars with leadership skills in order to translate evidence based care into practice, change systems of care, and measure patient outcomes.”
In order to prepare future CRNA students to succeed and lead in today’s ever changing health care landscape, LLUSN is now on track to transition the program from a Masters degree to a doctoral degree. Assistant Director and Assistant Professor, Dr. Vanessa Jones-Oyefeso adds to this, saying, “The transition to an entry-level DNP degree program represents a significant advancement of the program’s curriculum and clinical training that has made it such a success. Additionally, students will obtain doctoral training in leadership, policy, finance, ethics, and the skills necessary to plan, implement, and evaluate evidence-based strategies.”
Even as LLUSN takes steps to continue its proud tradition of excellence in clinical practice, education and research, the program is also staying connected to the roots of its legacy as well. An entire generation of LLU graduates went through the Nurse Anesthesia program at the School of Allied Health in between 1974 and 1982 before the program closed and was reestablished in the School of Nursing 30 years later. In 2016 LLUSN held its very first CRNA Alumni Reunion, bringing together CRNA graduates of both generations for the first time ever and marking the official unification of the two alumni bodies as one. Dean of the School of Nursing, Elizabeth Bossert says, “Bridging the gap between the two generations of nursing anesthesia alumni was an important moment for LLUSN as it provided historical context to the great work our students are doing today.”
The ultimate goal of the program is to prepare LLUSN’s CRNA students to be the highest quality of nurse anesthetists in practice, with a unique foundation of expertise and faith at the core of their patient treatment. The LLUSN CRNA program is humbled and proud of the continued changes and developments it has seen over the years. With God’s continued guidance and the concentrated dedication of the faculty and students, the program is poised to play a key role in the continued growth of the LLUH nurse anesthesia department in support of the Vision 2020 campaign.
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