Working to increase diversity in nurse anesthesia

Appeared in: Oakland Business Review


Published on: 08/20/12

The Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist (CRNA) program at Samuel Merritt University (SMU) has partnered with "Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program" for developing a diverse workforce.

The national organization offers workshops and CRNA mentors to inform, empower and mentor underserved diverse populations with information to
prepare for a successful career in nurse anesthesia. The university's School of
Nursing fully supports the program, and believes it is needed at every healthcare

This summer, nearly 100 registered nurses from across the United States who
specialize in critical care, and nursing students preparing to become critical care
nurses attended, the Diversity CRNA Information Session held on the SMU
Oakland campus.

"Like many other healthcare professional disciplines, nurse anesthesia
education programs face the challenge of recruiting, retaining and graduating
a sufficient number of qualified students to meet the healthcare workforce
demands," explains Celeste Villanueva, CRNA, MS, director of SMU's Program
of Nurse Anesthesia and of the university's Health Sciences Simulation Center.
"A significant aspect of this challenge is achieving an ethnically and culturally
diverse student mix that reflects the patient population of the local community
- in California, that population is highly likely to be comprised of a percentage
of people with minority backgrounds far greater than 16 percent."

The two-day event started with a panel discussion about the need to increase
diversity in nursing as a first step to increasing diversity in advanced practice
nursing specialties. "The importance of mentorship is our core value and a
diverse group of advance practice nurses as
Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist is our
immediate goal," said Wallena Gould, CRNA,
MSN, founder of Diversity in Nurse
Anesthesia Mentorship Program.

On the last day of the workshop, attendees
trained at the campus' Health Sciences
Simulation Center "Airway Simulation Lab."
The lab practice allowed them to increase
their awareness of the challenges of a nurse
anesthesia curriculum and provided a
glimpse of the innovative learning methods
utilized by the SMU faculty. More than six
dozen nurses were guided through the
hands-on experience on the anesthesia
machine equipment designed to provide an
accurate and continuous supply of medical
gases into the airway. The attendees also
interacted with the human-like mannequins
that are managed by highly sophisticated
computer software.

"We take every opportunity to expose
future healthcare professionals to the benefits
of simulation-based education," explains
Villanueva. "With the immersive experiences
and self-reflection that are characteristic of
simulation instructional methods, healthcare
providers have the opportunity to develop
and refine their technical and decisionmaking
skills without putting patients at

Byron Anderson, critical care registered
nurse from Baton Rouge, Louisiana, said the
experience at SMU helped him get a better
understanding of what school will be like
once he enters a CRNA program next year. "I
wanted to get an extra jump-start on things,
just to be more relaxed and gain more
confidence in my decision making," he said.
"I think what they have here at SMU is
awesome, especially the crisis management
system they use."

Fanjini Singh, RN, has been working at
Kaiser's Intensive Care Unit (ICU) in
Sacramento for six years. This fall she is
applying for the CRNA program at SMU. She
applauds the university's efforts to increase
diversity in healthcare. "In today's society
we are very diverse, we speak different
languages, we come from different countries
and we have to be able to adapt," she said.
"We have to have healthcare professionals
who are educated about different cultures,
able to speak the language and to be culturally
sensitive. It's really important to have a
diverse healthcare workforce."

"This is where the future of America
is," states Krishneel Lall, SMU nursing
student in the CRNA program. "If people
are exposed to different opportunities
they will take advantage of those opportunities.
Exposure like this will bring a lot
of minorities into new health fields
where they have never been to before
due to lack of support or mentors."


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