Posted on Feb 15, 2022

USF College of Nursing is the first in Florida’s state university system to offer an RNFA program

USF College of Nursing is the first in Florida’s state university system to offer an RNFA program

The USF Health College of Nursing launched a program, in affiliation with Tampa General Hospital (TGH), to enhance perioperative nurse knowledge. The college is the only Florida state university to offer a program of this kind, thanks to a generous donation through the TGH Foundation. The Registered Nurse First Assistant (RNFA) program will increase the pipeline of RNFAs and ultimately, improve patient safety in the operating room.

USF Health College of Nursing RNFA Program

“The future of nursing remains uncertain for us in so many ways, as we are dealing with a critical nursing shortage in the country,” said Usha Menon, dean of the USF Health College of Nursing and senior associate vice president for USF Health. “It’s programs like this that can really lead to impact in those areas of crucial need.”

RNFAs play a vital role in our hospitals, often working in collaboration with surgeons and nurses in the operating room to achieve optimal patient outcomes. An RNFA is a registered nurse who has received advanced training and credentialing that allows them to perform duties during the preoperative, intraoperative and postoperative care, in addition to care management and developing treatment plans in conjunction with the lead surgeons.

“They’re an adjunct to the surgeon and in many ways, they are kind of like the gel that holds the team together at times,” said Tampa General Hospital’s Director of Surgical Operations Nick Troeleman. “There is a comfort in that. There’s extra safety that’s added. And with that extra safety and that extra set of eyes and hands outcomes improve, that is beneficial for the surgeon. Most importantly, the patient benefits.”

Through this affiliation and program, nurses seeking career advancement are given the opportunity for world-class education from the USF Health College of Nursing and hands-on experience at Tampa General Hospital, a tertiary care hospital that delivers renowned care.

“The [RNFA] program is a perfect example of the ideal program you could put together between a top-notch university and a tertiary care academic medical center,” said Tampa General Hospital Chief Nursing Officer Annmarie Chavarria. “The students are getting extremely high-quality education and then they have the opportunity to practice in really complex cases in the operating room. So, in the end, we’re developing some of the world’s best health care providers for the future.”

First cohort of TGH students, RNFA program

First cohort of TGH students, RNFA program

The first cohort begins February 14, 2022, and includes four registered nurses from TGH. The tri-phased program will include 11 didactic online education modules, an in-person simulation experience and 120 hours of clinical training at approved clinical sites. The next cohort is set to begin in Fall 2022 and will be open to local and national enrollment. Class sizes are limited to 10 students.

“We would love to see nurses come from other hospitals because the third component of the training is at the home institution, so there is a tremendous benefit to institutions to send their nurses to participate,” said Menon. “We thrive because of the diversity of the people that come into our school and the diversity of thought and background.”

The unique curriculum will provide students with a strong foundation of perioperative and postoperative technical skills. In addition to earning 135 continuing education credits, graduates will be prepared to take the national certification exam to become a Certified Registered Nurse First Assistant.

Story by Cassidy Delamarter