For more than a decade, the shortage of trained nurses and physicians in the United States has caused concern among health care leaders, as well as patients and their families. The health care industry has made considerable progress in addressing the issue, but many hospitals and health care systems are still struggling to maintain adequate staffing levels. During this same period, the surgical landscape has been changing, and nurse anesthetist programs have grown substantially to try to meet demand.
Crtified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) have many reasons to be pleased about their job prospects, both now and in the future. According to the U.S. Department of Labor’s 2006-07 Occupational Outlook Handbook published by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, job opportunities for registered nurses in all specialties are expected to be “excellent” in the next few years, with employment rates growing much faster than the average for all occupations through 2014.
The Handbook also predicts that advanced practice nurses, including CRNAs, will be in high demand, particularly in medically underserved areas such as inner cities and rural areas.
Wallena Gould´s first nursing position was an operating room nurse, where her responsibilities included scrub and circulating duties
It was Ben Wright, CRNA, chief nurse anesthetist at Underwood Hospital, and Dolores Murphy, chief nurse anesthetist at Presbyterian Medical Center, who inspired her to pursue the field of nurse anesthesia.
This was the first time she was introduced to the nurse anesthesia profession, and also where she found, at two hospitals, that both chief nurse anesthetists were African American. For her it was profound. Immediately, she left the operating room to build up my nursing skills on a telemetry floor, then to move on to Trauma.
As a student nurse anesthetist at La Salle University, she was in a curriculum that was shared by the four nurse anesthesia programs in the Philadelphia area, and where the lack of minority faculty in these programs was immediately observed. She decided to address this in a poster project.
In their nurse anesthesia program, a poster project was assigned to each student. Wellena took pictures in my class of the minority student nurse anesthetists simulating spinal placement, ventilating a patient, and assessing a patient. Objectives were defined, and the AANA’s demographic statistics of the minority nurse anesthetists in the profession were graphically depicted on the poster. The poster was entitled, Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia. A stellar grade was earned as a result, but something was wrong…and again Wellena decided to address it.
She started a local mentorship program for incoming minority student nurse anesthetists to meet with her classmates for lunch and to review the anesthesia machine. This mentorship program expanded the year after when Wellena began working as a CRNA. It was Art Zwerling, CRNA, MSN, DNP, DAAPM, with whom she shared her vision to increase diversity in the profession, and he simply said, "Think outside the box and do what no one else is doing."
It was Bob Shearer, CRNA, MSN, who encouraged Wellena to expand the mentorship program outside the Philadelphia area while she was still a nurse anesthesia student at Montgomeray Hospital School of Nurse Anesthesia.
That year, the gathering was held at Crozer Chester Medical Center with incoming minority students from La Salle University, the University of Pennsylvania, St. Joseph University, the University of Maryland, Villanova University and Drexel University.
Bette Wildgust, program director of Villanova University, made the arrangements to have the meeting at Crozer Chester Medical Center. Wellena would not have had the opportunity to have this event if she had not been involved. New graduates from these programs were on the panel to speak to the new students and a few ICU nurses interested in studying on a nurse anesthesia program.
One of Wellena’s mentors and a true visionary leader who had a profound effect on her to advance diversity in the nurse anesthesia profession is Jeffrey Beutler, CRNA, MS, former AANA executive director.
All of this started as a poster project! Wellena is now enjoying her career as a CRNA. Do you support Wallena’s cause? If so, how can we support you in your career through our services? We´d sure like to!