September 17, 2014  

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Southern Miss Welcomes Inaugural Class of Nurse Anesthesia Program

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The inaugural class of the Nurse Anesthesia Program at The University of Southern Mississippi pose outside the Lucas Administration during orientation on Jan. 8. (University Communications photo by Van Arnold)

The College of Nursing at The University of Southern Mississippi added a memorable chapter to its storied history by welcoming the inaugural class of the Nurse Anesthesia Program to the Hattiesburg campus.

Following an extensive selection and interview process, 20 students were chosen for the new program, which will include 36 consecutive months of study and award a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree. The inaugural group underwent orientation sessions on Jan. 8-9.

"I was extremely excited when I found out I was accepted into the Nurse Anesthesia DNP program," said Kim Burks, who earned her BSN at Southern Miss in 2010. " It means a great deal to me that Dr. Stuart and Dr. Everson have the vision and confidence in my abilities for such an important career. Nurse anesthetists are essential to the medical field and patients, not only for patient safety but also high quality cost effective care and services."

Added NAP student Donald Welch, of Ellisville: “The idea of being in a doctoral program and learning advanced skills has always been appealing to me.”

Dr. Katherine Nugent, dean of the College of Nursing at Southern Miss, was quick to remind the class that “you are setting the standard for all other classes to follow. The data we collect and observations we record will be used in making evaluations and assessments about the program from this day forward.”

Southern Miss is the first among Mississippi’s eight institutions of higher learning to offer a degree-granting nurse anesthesia program. Dr. Vickie Stuart, a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist in Hattiesburg since 1998, introduced the idea of a nurse anesthesia program to Southern Miss administrators in 2008.

“The two years of work that was dedicated to developing the Southern Miss nurse anesthesia program has been a rewarding career accomplishment,” said Stuart, who will serve as the program’s director. “Now that Mississippi has its own nurse anesthesia program many Registered Nurses will be afforded an opportunity for an in-state education.”

The program’s mission is to supply doctoral prepared graduates with the advanced knowledge in the area of clinical specialization of nurse anesthesia. The doctoral degree prepares the CRNA to assume leadership positions in education, management and patient care by offering a curriculum concentrating on quality assessment and improvement, health care system and organizations, leadership, best evidence of practice, health policy and health care economics.

“I am so excited to be part of this historic event. I am sure that the USM Nurse Anesthesia Program, with its innovative teaching methods, will be highly sought out by potential students from around the country,” said Dr. Marjorie Geisz-Everson, NAP assistant director.

Hattiesburg’s Forrest General Hospital will serve as the primary clinical site for the students in the Southern Miss Nurse Anesthesia Program. More than 60 qualified students applied for the coveted 20 spots in the new program.

“This program will contribute to the College of Nursing, the university, our clinical partners, and the community as a whole by expanding the educational offerings in health care,” said Stuart.”