BU, Geisinger team up for nurse anesthetist program

For immediate release: Nov. 20, 2007

BLOOMSBURG — Bloomsburg University of Pennsylvania and Geisinger Health System recently signed an agreement to jointly offer a master’s-level Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) program. The agreement allows the accreditation process to begin with the goal of welcoming the first class in fall 2008.

The 33-month program will be open to registered nurses who have earned a bachelor of science in nursing degree from an accredited program and have at least one year’s experience in critical care nursing, according to Arthur Richer, chief nurse anesthetist for the Geisinger Health System. It is offered as a clinical option through BU’s master of science in nursing program. About a dozen students will be admitted each year.

Students will spend the first fall and spring semesters at BU’s campus where they will enroll in core graduate-level nursing courses, said Christine Alichnie, chair of BU’s nursing department. Beginning in the first summer, the students will begin the clinical component at various locations within the Geisinger Health System. These include the Geisinger Medical Center, Danville; Geisinger Wyoming Valley; and Geisinger South Wilkes-Barre. The CRNA program director will be employed jointly by BU and Geisinger.

“The students will be required to complete a prescribed number of cases in all areas of anesthesia care, but I know from experience that they will far exceed these requirements,” Richer said. “They will gain experience in different types of patient care – at our level one trauma center and two ambulatory centers, in private practice and in community practice settings.”

Students who successfully complete the program and the national certification exam offered by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) will earn the designation CRNA, certified registered nurse anesthetist.

Nurse anesthetists are the hands-on providers of 27 million anesthetics delivered in the U.S. each year, according to the AANA. They are directly involved in the technical and scientific parts of controlling someone’s physiology during surgical, interventional, and diagnostic settings, Richer said, areas as diverse as cardiac, transplant, pediatric, pain therapy and obstetrics. “Wherever a patient needs anesthesia care, that’s where we can be.”

Along with the classroom and clinical training, nurse anesthetists must be able to quickly analyze a patient’s condition, staying calm and focused. “You have to be able to think on your toes and be humble about what you’re doing,” according to Richer.

Approximately 31,000 nurse anesthetists are employed in the United States today, including about 65 professionals at Geisinger Medical Center in Danville and another 35 at other locations throughout the system.

“Last year, Geisinger requested proposals to help us re-establish a nurse anesthetist program replacing one that closed nearly 10 years ago,” he said. “The Bloomsburg University nursing program has an excellent reputation and it only made sense to put Geisinger and BU together.

“I know these students will be able to go anywhere to practice when they complete the program…but we’re hoping they will stay within the Geisinger system,” he said.

Bloomsburg University is one of 14 universities in the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education. The university serves approximately 8,000 students, offering comprehensive programs of study in the colleges of Professional Studies, Business, Liberal Arts and Science and Technology.