CRNA Concentration Grows as Attractive, Affordable Option

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The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthesia (CRNA) concentration continues to grow. Michael Koenig, Daniel Belu, and Latoya Miller, believe it is an excellent way to expand a nursing career. (Photo by Allen Gillespie/UTHSC)

The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) concentration is available at UTHSC through the College of Nursing’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) program and continues to grow. Fifty-eight students are now enrolled in the nurse anesthesia concentration.

“The CRNA profession is very valuable,” said Dwayne Accardo, DNP, CRNA, program director of the CON’s nurse anesthesia concentration. “Individuals who seek out this profession become highly skilled, very qualified, and necessary to make a difference in health care.”

Daniel Belu aspires to be a CRNA. He is in his third semester of the accelerated Bachelor of Science in Nursing program at UTHSC.

“I really am interested in the operating room environment, the technology and math that goes along with figuring out anesthetics to each individual in their specific cases,” he said. “The science of anesthesia is always growing, and there are a lot of unknowns that still exist in the field. It is something that we know works, but not always how it works. The opportunity to grow in a very challenging field that will keep me on a path of lifelong learning, while working closely with patients at some of their most vulnerable points, excites me about working in this specialty someday.”

The Nurse Anesthesia Class of 2020 received their scrub caps during the College of Nursing’s Scrub Cap Ceremony.  The ceremony symbolizes a milestone in their training. (Photo by Brandon Dill)

According to the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), the CRNA credential has been official since 1956. The association reports the specialty is becoming more professionally diverse, and that males make up roughly 40 percent of the CRNA workforce.

Belu was inspired to pursue a nursing career by his fiancée Jean, also in nursing school in Boston, and by his mother who is a certified nurse case manager. “I will always remember hearing her stories around the dinner table growing up about her long 12-hour shifts,” Belu said. “Seeing her work hard and knowing the great work she was doing, while making a difference, was always something to aspire to.”

A first-generation American, Belu was born and raised in Queens, New York. His parents emigrated from what was Yugoslavia. Belu did most of his undergraduate work at Auburn University and completed his degree in biology at the University at Albany.

Experience as a physical therapy volunteer and patient care associate cemented his career choice. “It made me realize how vast the field of nursing is,” he said. “It is full of opportunity in any specialty you can think of, and I was especially attracted to the higher degree of patient interaction you have as a nurse.”

Michael Koenig, a second-year DNP nurse anesthesia student, became interested in nursing after caring for his sister, who was diagnosed with a traumatic brain injury from complications at birth and epilepsy later in life.

“Due to the complexities surrounding such a diagnosis, I had to assume the role of an advocate from a very early age,” he said. “It was during this period I realized I wanted to comprehend what was happening with my sister, which led me to develop a passion for science and understanding how the human body functions. These desires stayed with me throughout my childhood.”

The College of Nursing’s recent Scrub Cap Ceremony was a time for family and friends to applaud the CRNA students’ achievements. (Photo by Brandon Dill)

Upon graduating from the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, Koenig, who is from Brentwood, Tennessee, began working in the Medical Intensive Care Unit at Erlanger Health System in Chattanooga. “I found my career to be extremely fulfilling; however, I still yearned for advanced knowledge and technical skills, so I explored becoming a CRNA. They are advocates for patients during their most vulnerable moments in life.”

Latoya Miller, now in her final year of the DNP Nurse Anesthesia program, worked as a medical technologist before deciding to transition into the nursing field. “Working as a medical technologist in a laboratory dedicated to the neonatal population allowed me to have constant patient interaction,” she said. “I realized I’d like to have even more patient interaction, so I pursued a degree in nursing.”

A Hazlehurst, Mississippi native, Miller received degrees from Copiah Lincoln Community College and the University of Mississippi. “UTHSC’s nurse anesthesia program offers specialty clinical rotations other programs do not have access to,” she said. “I’m grateful for the didactic curriculum and clinical experience.”

Belu and Koenig chose UTHSC because of the College of Nursing’s reputation and affordability. For Miller, it was about the personal interaction with the College of Nursing staff. “Aside from being one of the best schools in the area, the program director, Dr. Dwayne Accardo, and associate program directors, Dr. Cynthia Dabney and Dr. Lanny Coker, were really welcoming during the admission interview,” she said. “They were interested in getting to know me as a person and really cared about helping me achieve my professional goals. After leaving my interview, I knew UTHSC was where I wanted to be.”

Koenig said, the tuition at UTHSC is hard to beat, especially for an entry-level doctorate CRNA program. “Not only are all of the clinical sites local, they are also world-class facilities with great opportunities for firsthand clinical experience as a student.”“I was an older applicant, and time was an important factor in determining where I would apply,” Belu said. “Dr. Susan Jacob piqued my interest with UTHSC’s reputation, their NCLEX pass rates, and the new state-of-the-art CHIPS simulation center, which my cohort would be the first to use. Dr. Ricketta Clark sold me on her personal experiences as a Memphian, and the beauty, wonders, culture, cuisine, and people I could interact with in Memphis. She also helped give me great insight into the quality education I would receive, seeing as she is a UTHSC graduate herself.”

Note: This story is from the most recent issue of Nursing magazine.