WCU wins $1.23 million grant for nurse anesthesia program

Western Carolina University recently won a three-year, $1.23 million grant to expand the nurse anesthesia program and develop a high-fidelity simulation laboratory at the Asheville-Buncombe Technical Community College Enka campus.

During the first year of the grant from the Health Resources Services Administration, WCU’s School of Nursing will purchase a human patient simulator advanced enough to recognize what drugs are being administered and provide the appropriate response. In addition, the simulator is equipped to record video of students practicing nurse anesthesia and data detailing the simulation useful for debriefing sessions.

“We can review with students what they did, if there was anything they could have done better and where they could improve,” said Dr. Shawn Collins, director of the nurse anesthesia program and the grant’s director. “This allows our students to safely gain more skills and confidence in administering anesthesia before they begin working with real, live patients.”

The grant also provides for a simulation consultant to develop simulation scenarios for anesthesia and a diversity consultant to work with students and faculty. In addition, the funding will support faculty salaries, resources such as testing software and anesthesia journal subscriptions.

WCU’s 28-month nurse anesthesia program accepts 14 students into each cohort class, which is less than 20 percent of applicants. With the grant, WCU will be able to grow each incoming class to 16 students in the second year of the grant and 18 in the third year of the grant.

“The use of high-fidelity simulators in a state-of-the-art simulated operating room will give our anesthesia students a higher level of preparation and afford them opportunities to practice critical skills and scenarios that rarely occur in real life, but when they do occur, it is critical that the nurse anesthetist know how to respond quickly and accurately,” said Judy Neubrander, interim director of the School of Nursing. “Using this level of technology gives our anesthesia students a superior education.”

Collins also recently won an approximately $2,400 award from HRSA to fund nurse anesthesia student traineeships.