Saint Francis plans anesthetist program

March 1, 2017 GMT

In a year of history-making moments, the University of Saint Francis announced another milestone Tuesday: the launch of its first doctoral degree program, which offers students an opportunity to become certified registered nurse anesthetists.

University officials, speaking during a news conference in the Doermer Family Center of Health Science Education nursing commons, said its Doctor of Nursing Practice-CRNA program will be the first in Indiana.

Andrew Prall, the school’s vice president of academic affairs, said he is proud of the work put into developing the program, which joins Saint Francis’ national football championship and the opening of its downtown campus as noteworthy accomplishments this academic year.

Program director Marquessa Fisher, who joined Saint Francis last year and previously taught at the University of Miami in Coral Gables, Florida, said she has spent months eagerly preparing for this day.

She called Saint Francis a “visionary leader in care” for beginning the program.

The demand for CRNAs in Indiana is on the rise, she said, noting the need is especially great in rural communities, where CRNAs predominately administer anesthesia.

Representatives from the university’s clinical partners, including Great Lakes Anesthesia, attended Tuesday’s announcement and attested to the need for CRNAs.

Rob Colcord of Great Lakes Anesthesia said the CRNA program will help train replacements for a retiring workforce and will provide him with people to hire.

Laura Ferrell of Parkview Ortho Hospital, another clinical partner, said the medical facility is excited to work with Saint Francis on this venture. Students will come to the hospital during their third year of residency, she said.

Saint Francis plans to begin the first CRNA cohort in the fall but cannot enroll students until it receives accreditation from the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs, which the university expects will happen in May, Fisher said.

The school, however, has received 88 applicants for 15 seats, she said, and candidate interviews are planned for this month and April.

Through the rigorous, 36-month program, students will accumulate at least 2,000 operating room hours and log hundreds of surgical cases by graduation, Fisher said.

In 2018, Saint Francis will start the doctoral program’s second track, the Post-MSN Doctor of Nursing Practice, which lets those with a Master of Science in nursing increase their skills with a focus on population health.

The doctoral program is under the leadership of Wendy Clark, graduate nursing program director, and Mindy Yoder, School of Health Sciences dean.