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USM Increases Enrollment for Nurse Anesthesia Program

Fri, 01/21/2022 - 13:48pm | By: Van Arnold

To help meet the dire need for more nurse anesthetists in Mississippi, the College of Nursing and Health Professions (CNHP) at The University of Southern Mississippi (USM) has received approval to increase the customary number of students in the Nurse Anesthesia program from 20 to 25 for the spring 2022 semester.

Late last fall the University and the Council of Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Programs approved the cohort expansion based upon a continuing flood of strong applications. Dr. Lachel Story, Dean of USM’s College of Nursing and Health Professions, says the approval speaks to the program’s impressive outcomes.

“We are still waiting on results from the December 2021 graduating cohort, but our 2020 cohort had a 100 percent pass rate on their licensure exam,” said Story. “Being the only nurse anesthesia program in the state, this increase will help address the CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist) shortage statewide.”

To support this increase, Story points out that CNHP is hiring additional instructional staff and making upgrades to the nursing program’s Simulation Lab.

Studies estimate that the U.S. will see a shortage of approximately 3,500 to 4,000 Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) in the next 3-5 years. More than 22 percent of the currently practicing 40,000-plus CRNAs are above retirement age.

Dr. Nina McLain, USM’s Nurse Anesthesia Program Administrator, explains that Mississippi has approximately 800 CRNAs practicing, with about 160 above the retirement threshold.

“We are excited to be able to increase the number of students we are graduating to help fill the imminent void, and we hope to increase in size consistently,” she said. “Mississippi has large rural service areas and many of the facilities in those areas have CRNA-only practices where they collaborate with surgeons and other physicians to provide anesthesia.”

Since its inception in January 2013, the doctoral program has graduated approximately 135 students. Many graduates have become CRNAs with the University’s clinical partners throughout the state.

“We have students in all practice models and teach them to appreciate the differences between them,” said McLain. “We have one mandatory clinical site, Forrest General Hospital, that our students rotate through and receive all types of experiences, including weekends and night coverage for emergency cases. We have 20 more clinical sites around the state that provide specific or different experiences to allow our graduates to be very well-rounded clinically.”

Added McLain: “Besides our extremely dedicated faculty, the caliber of students we admit is a huge asset. Our biggest advantage is the quality of preceptorship our students receive from our clinical physician and CRNA partners. They really deserve much of the credit for our success.”

Regan Rhian, a 2018 USM graduate and Hattiesburg native, is among the newest cohort of Nurse Anesthesia Program students. For the past three years, she has worked in a 34-bed neuroscience intensive care unit at Ochsner Main Campus in New Orleans.

Rhian explains that her interest in becoming a nurse anesthetist arose during clinical rotations in the operating room as part of her BSN degree program at USM.

“I knew that it would take experience working in the ICU setting and extensive learning to achieve my goal of going to anesthesia school, and it truly is a surreal feeling to know that I have officially begun my studies as a student registered nurse anesthetist,” said Rhian.

The School of Leadership and Advanced Nursing Practice offers the Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) Nurse Anesthesia program which is 36 months of full-time study to prepare advanced practice nurses in leadership positions in health-related organizations. The purpose of the Nurse Anesthesia program is to prepare future advanced practice nurses at the highest professional level of nursing practice in the role of nurse anesthesia. 

The program of study includes 114 hours of required coursework, including 12 doctoral project hours. A comprehensive exam, a doctoral project, and a 3.0 GPA are required to graduate.

Dr. Lawanda Baskin, Director of USM’s School of Leadership and Advancing Nursing Practice, emphasizes that the Nurse Anesthesia Program enrollment increase helps validate the University’s reputation as a leader in nursing education.

“I am elated to see the Nurse Anesthesia Program grow in this way,” said Baskin. “This enrollment increase shows that our program is meeting the standards set forth by its national accrediting body and that there is confidence in the quality of the program.”

To learn more about the Nurse Anesthesia Program at USM, call 601.266.5445 or visit: