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Healthcare in Wisconsin just got a big boost of doctoral-prepared nurse anesthetists from the University of Wisconsin Oshkosh.

After three years of intense study, research and sacrifice, 11 students graduated in May as the state’s first class of nurse anesthetists in UWO’s rigorous three-year, 74-credit bachelor’s degree to Doctor of Nursing Practice Program.

“I couldn’t be more excited. This is a monumental day for UWO, as well as the state of Wisconsin,” said Kathy Wren, director of UWO’s DNP nurse anesthesia emphasis.

UWO also graduated 24 DNPs in the family nurse practitioner emphasis in May.

Representing the highest level of education in specialized advanced nursing practice roles, the DNP at UWO prepares its graduates for the workforce with specialized courses, real- world clinical experiences in healthcare agencies and a required scholarly project.

As UWO’s first nurse anesthesia cohort began in June 2017, the goal was to help alleviate a statewide shortage with 30% of all Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) set to retire by 2022. Ten of the 11 new nurse anesthesia grads plan to remain in Wisconsin to work at trauma centers, critical access hospitals and rural hospitals.

“All of our students have done clinical projects and worked with clinical healthcare agencies in the Fox Valley. We get them prepared and ready to go, so they can hit the ground running,” Wren said.

With three more cohorts underway, UWO is on track to graduate 12, 15 and 18 more doctoral-prepared nurse anesthetists in 2021, 2022 and 2023, respectively.

The new graduates exemplify the College of Nursing’s dedication to developing caring and scholarly nurses … with an extra dose of scholarly.

Inshirah Robinson, of Oshkosh, investigated a hospital’s compliance with evidence-based practice recommendations, which call for administering acetaminophen to total hip arthroplasty patients for multimodal (using two or more medications or methods) pain management.

“My scholarly project emphasized the importance of quality improvement and multimodal pain management. As a CRNA, I plan to look for opportunities to improve the quality of care patients receive. I plan to implement multimodal pain management techniques to decrease my patients’ opioid consumption while providing excellent pain management for my patients whenever possible,” she said.

Following graduation, Robinson is working with Advocate Aurora Hospital in Oshkosh.

“I am very proud to be one of the first DNP graduates of nurse anesthesia programs in Wisconsin. It was truly a challenging three years, every moment of the challenge and every sacrifice was worth it to reach my goal of being a DNP CRNA,” she said.

For her scholarly project, Melissa Henneman helped develop a training module about the UWO nurse anesthesia program and student expectations for those who serve as CRNA preceptors at clinical sites.

“We covered some differences in learning theories, as well as learning styles between generations and provided some insight as to how best to teach students,” said Henneman, who began work in August as a staff CRNA at Marshfield Medical Center in Eau Claire.

“I think this information will be of use to me, as I plan to precept nurse anesthesia students in the future.”

Henneman also went through the process to have the module approved for continuing education credits through the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.

“I gained the tools necessary to plan and implement a project on a greater scale than I had before. It is empowering to learn that we as individuals are capable of influencing change in our surroundings,” she said.

“Overall the program at UWO prepared me well to start the next chapter in my career. I gained a good variety of clinical experiences during my time here, and I met many people who were willing to help me out along the way and who will serve as friends and mentors for years to come.”

Brittany Petersen, Lacey Anderson and Mel Beck formed strong bonds as they worked together on their project— “High-Fidelity Simulation and its Effects on Student Registered Nurse Anesthetists’ Perceived Self-Efficacy.”

Their results included recommendations for individualizing simulation experiences and rehearsing simulations to avoid unforeseen equipment issues and technical difficulties.

Petersen said working on the scholarly project increased her “confidence and knowledge in managing high-risk, low-frequency anesthesia events and complications.”

She is looking forward to continuing her friendship with her project partners in the years to come. She and Anderson even work together now at the Hospital Sisters Health System in Green Bay–St. Mary’s and St. Vincent’s hospitals.

“It has been a blessing going through the same experiences together,” Petersen said.