Posted on Jan 18, 2018

Nurse Anesthesia Program Gains Doctoral Degree Accreditation

Nurse Anesthesia Program Gains Doctoral Degree Accreditation

Beginning in May 2019, students entering the nurse anesthesia program at the USF College of Nursing will be graduating with a Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) degree, as nursing schools shift from awarding a master’s to a doctoral degree to meet a nationwide mandate.

The Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (COA) recently approved an application accrediting the College of Nursing’s DNP program for Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA).

The council’s approval means students beginning the college’s nurse anesthesia program as of May 2019 will be on track to graduate with a DNP degree in May 2022, while the school’s Masters of Science degree for nurse anesthetists will be phased out. The college’s final group of master’s-degree prepared CRNAs will start coursework in August 2018 and graduate in December 2020.

Nurse anesthesia programs throughout the U.S. face a deadline to transition into a doctoral-degree program due to a policy requirement by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), the professional group representing CRNAs.

In 2009, AANA adopted a position statement requiring nurse anesthesia programs to offer doctoral degrees for entry into practice by 2025. That deadline means all accredited nurse anesthesia programs will need to have students enrolled in a DNP-accredited program by January 2022.

CRNA Program Administrator Dr. Michelle Canale, DNP, CRNA, ARNP, said the requirement for nursing schools to offer nurse anesthesia as a doctoral degree will not limit the practice authority for current nurse anesthesia students in the master’s program.

Master’s degree-prepared CRNAs will be grandfathered in, similar to the historical progression of educational requirements for entry-level nurse anesthetists, she said.

“It’s really a national effort that has been talked about by all of nursing. CRNAs are just one sector of advanced practice nurses,” Canale said.

“There’s been a “natural progression over history. There was a time when nurse anesthetists simply had a certificate, then a bachelors’ degree, then a master’s degree, and now a doctoral degree,” she said.

Academically, admission requirements are not changing, but the nurse anesthesia program will jump from 72 to 94 credit hours and expand from 28 to 36 months. Nurse anesthetists in the DNP program will be taking additional credit courses in leadership and health policy, be required to log additional clinical hours, and complete a doctoral project.

Canale said USF College of Nursing is proud to have received the accreditation approval on the application’s initial submission.

 “Only about half get approved on the first attempt, so it’s quite an accomplishment,” she said.

The nurse anesthesia DNP program will also be closely tied to the college’s recently accredited Simulation-Based Academic Fellowship in Advanced Pain Management.

Canale said graduating DNP students will have taken two of the four courses required in the post-graduate pain program and would only need two more courses to complete the pain fellowship.

Story by Elizabeth L. Brown, USF College of Nursing