Nurse Anesthesia Program Marks 20th Anniversary

FEBRUARY 13, 2014 - Twenty years have passed since Donna Jasinski, PhD, CRNA, spearheaded the launch of the Nurse Anesthesia Program at the School of Nursing & Health Studies.

“I was always interested in education,” says Jasinski, who has served as director of the now-nationally ranked program since it began in 1994.  “I earned my master’s degree with the intent of going into higher education.”

Back then, Jasinski had been working at Georgetown University Hospital and learned that the U.S. Navy wished to affiliate with the university to offer a master’s-level program for aspiring naval nurse anesthetists.

With colleagues at Georgetown University Medical Center, Jasinski put together a program proposal and ultimately enrolled the first Navy class in August 1994.  The next year, the program opened its doors to civilians.

‘Complete Team Effort’

“The reason I’ve been program director for so long is I truly love what I do,” a smiling Jasinski says during a recent interview in her office in St. Mary’s Hall.  “I love to see the students come into the program and see them progress with each semester.”

The program has now graduated more than 400 students who work at sites across the United States, including in leadership roles in clinical settings, she says.

She points to a number of colleagues who made significant contributions to the program during its early history – Ladan Eshkevari (G’10), PhD, CRNA, the program’s assistant director; Jack G. Chirikjian, PhD, and Michael Lumpkin, PhD, professors of biochemistry and molecular and cellular biology; Kenneth Dretchen, PhD, chair of the Department of Pharmacology; and David Lees, MD, and Russell Wall, MD, a former and the current chair of the Department of Anesthesiology.  She also highlighted program faculty throughout the years.

“This is a complete team effort,” Jasinski says.  “I certainly would not have been able to carry on the program for the last 20 years without my CRNA team, the research faculty, the science faculty, and the clinical faculty.”

Educational Excellence

Jasinski says that the 27-month program provides students a solid foundation using a front-loaded curriculum through which they learn scientific material before the clinical part of their education.

“It’s valuable because it gives the students the foundational knowledge and they are well versed in the pharmacology of the drugs before they enter into the operating room,” she says.  “They’ve already learned about the drugs in simulation and the classroom.”

Students also practice with realistic simulators and standardized patients in the school’s O’Neill Family Foundation Clinical Simulation Center, use the medical center’s cadaver laboratory to practice regional anesthesia techniques, observe the operating room in action at local hospitals, and conduct research projects.

Amid all of these activities, Jasinski says the university’s values remain central.

“We always stress cura personalis – care for the whole person,” she says.  “Our students must advocate for patients who cannot speak for themselves.  Another of our values is excellence.  Our courses have a very high rigor.  We set the bar high.”

National Recognition

Faculty and students have been recognized in a number of ways over the years.  For instance, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) presents the Crystal Apple Award for innovation in research, scholarship, and teaching.

Eshkevari has won for using the cadaver laboratory in her teaching.  The program has also garnered the award for creating The Student Journal of Nurse Anesthesia, which has since become an independent, international publication.

In addition, Jasinski is an elected member of the AANA’s board of directors.  Victoria Goode, MS, CRNA, instructor of nursing, was named the 2013 Research Doctoral Fellow from the AANA Foundation.  And a research team of Class of 2013 students earned the AANA Foundation’s 2013 Dean Hayden Research Scholarship.

Growing Opportunities

Looking forward, Jasinski says the opportunities for nurse anesthetists will continue to grow, especially with the Affordable Care Act and the Institute of Medicine report The Future of Nursing.

“We will expand into pain management facilities and also meet the ever-expanding needs of the newly insured and the baby boomer generation,” she says.  “We anticipate that we will be busier and have a higher caseload.”

The longtime director says she is deeply gratified by the contribution her program has made and will continue to make to the profession and the health of the public.

“I am very, very proud of our graduates,” Jasinski says.  “I always say that graduation is a bittersweet moment because the students are leaving.  But it is also sweet because they are going out into nurse anesthesia and will represent Georgetown well – fulfilling my dream as an educator.  I feel that I’ve had a part in the education of individuals who will contribute to the profession I really love.”

Says Jasinski: “I am really passionate about education and nurse anesthesia.”

By Bill Cessato