Texas Wesleyan’s Graduate program of Nurse Anesthesia [GPNA] continues to maintain the highest standards and expectations from their students, all the while claiming the spot for one of the top contenders in the nation.

Deborah Maloy, director of the graduate program of  Nurse Anesthesia and who has worked at Wesleyan since 2003 ,  said Wesleyan’s Nurse Anesthesia program started at Harris Hospital downtown Fort Worth back in 1947. Maloy also graduated from the program several years ago.

Maloy said nurses have been trained to do anesthesia as early as the Civil War. 

“In the late’80s early ’90s, nurse anesthetists decided to make [nurse anesthesia] a master’s level entry,” Maloy said. “So you had to have a bachelor’s degree in nursing and then earn a master’s in anesthesia.”

Health sceince classes started in 1982 where students would earn a master’s in health science and a nurse anesthesia certificate from Harris Hospital.

Maloy said a couple of years later Wesleyan took over the entire program but Harris Hosptial remained the primary clinical site.

Maloy said Wesleyan’s nurse anesthesia program is one of the largest programs in the nation.

“When you’re a very small program and [there is] one particular hospital, sometimes they may have 150 applications for five spots, you pretty much have to walk on water to get into that school,” Maloy said. ” Those people do really well because they are brilliant but this program [Wesleyan’s GPNA]  takes qualified people from all over the country, and it allows them to stay in their home hospitals.”

Maloy said the program is distance education but it is not online, students participate in the classroom. Maloy said there are 70 hospitals that train the nurse anesthesia students, and 25 of them that take the students on full-time [16-month residency].

“After you get your classes behind you, [Students] spend 16 months full-time usaully 55 to 60 hours a week working in the hospital on patients,” Maloy said. “You’re actually giving anesthesia to patients under the supervision of a CRNA or an anesthesiologist.” 

Maloy said some of the hospitals that the GPNA works with range from border to border of the coast, from California, North Dakota, Texas, Florida and more. Each of the hospitals take about 2 to 10 students to practice at their hospital.

“Our people pass the boards, at the same rate or better than some of the places that only take five people [into the program],” Maloy said. “It is a really solid program and we have several hospitals that won’t hire brand new graduates unless they are brand new graduates from Wesleyan, so that speaks a lot because it shows you what those people know.”

Maloy said the GPNA program has connections with hospitals in different cities where a lot more nurse anesthesia programs who would rather take students from Wesleyan’s GPNA because of the quality of their education.

“Nurse Anesthesia is a hard thing to learn but the graduates are just very, very capable,” Maloy said. ” It is a competitive program.  We’re very lucky because we’re still in a field where everybody who graduates can find a job and everyone who graduates passes their boards.”

Maloy said a small number of the GPNA students have had to take the boards more than once because the test is extremely hard, but they all pass within the 90-day qualifying period. Some students are subject to move because of where their job is located, but they all are certified to give anesthesia.

“Right now in the United States today there are 40,ooo nurse anesthetists and 2,000 of them have graduated from this program [Wesleyan]. There are four programs in Texas. [Texas Christian University] has about 60 students and we have about 100 students a year,” Maloy said. ” They are all good programs.”

Maloy said the best part of Wesleyan’s nurse anesthesia program is the solid academic core before going to clinical training; students get to know what you need to know.

“You still have to practice and you have to learn hands on skills, but you can make good decisions and  know what should happen because you have a solid knowledge base behind you” Maloy said. “I think that is a strong part of this program.”

Teri Kane, clinical instructor of graduate programs, said one of the benefits of Wesleyan’s GPNA being one of the largest programs in the nation is variety of resources, especially with getting a choice of which hospital students want to train at.

“One the big benefits of our program is dedicated faculty, so our chemistry professor and our AP professor, they teach a number of classes around campus. They are dedicated,” Kane said. “Our students almost have 24-hour access to us. We just help and give and take and get to know our students because their classes are right here in the building.”

Andrew Dell, a graduate student in the nurse anesthesia program at Wesleyan, said he has been a part of the program since August and appreciates the program because it focuses on the didactic learning the first year and then the clinical, hospital-based setting.

“The style of front-loading classes is beneficial because it promotes learning medications, rationales, and physiologic principles  prior to being immersed in the anesthesia world,” Dell said. “The faculty have made themselves very available and have been nothing but helpful throughout these last two semesters.”

Dell said the only hard part about the program he has experienced is to have the will power to study.

“I have to continually remind myself that this schooling is an investment, and that I am going through the rigor of this program so that later in life, I will not only be able to enjoy my career better, but also be able to provide for my family in the best way possible,” Dell said.

rdwest@txwes.edu