With a headcount of 9,558, enrollment has increased by 7.12% since 2006 at The University of Tennessee at Chattanooga, but eight of those students are not even on the UTC campus. They are participating in a long-distance education program to become certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) in Mississippi, one of the creative ways UTC is working to address nursing shortages in rural areas.
Erlanger Health System has been an essential clinical partner with the program from its inception. For many years Erlanger was the only option for clinical sites, but in 2003, through a UTC partnership with North Mississippi Medical Center, a long-distance education option for clinical experiences became available. Currently, five students who began their quest to become CRNAs in 2006 and three students who began in 2007 had their first summer semester at UTC, and then they went to Tupelo for their clinical rotations.
“North Mississippi Medical Center has more than 600 beds, making it the largest hospital in Mississippi and the largest non-metropolitan hospital in the United States,” said Linda Hill, CRNA, DNSc, APN, Coordinator of the UTC Nurse Anesthesia Concentration.
To complete the nursing anesthesia program demands a serious commitment. Recruiters receive four applications for each slot in the program, according to Dr. Hill. Students applying to the nurse anesthesia concentration are required to have a minimum of one year of critical care nursing experience. Two years of critical care experience is recommended, particularly if the applicant has no other clinical nursing experience. Including the undergraduate experience, students can expect to spend seven years to complete this competitive program, combining classroom education and clinical experience.
“These students get involved in every type of surgical procedure, including open heart surgery, Cesarean section births, regional anesthesia including epidurals and spinals, pediatrics, geriatrics—the CRNA provides the care,” Hill said.
Before a UTC student sits for certification, they are required to perform at least 550 cases. “Because of the high level of clinical experiences that our students complete, UTC continually graduates top quality health care professionals,” Hill said.
The average UTC student completes 988 cases, “well above the requirement to sit for certification,” Hill said. She added that the average student nurse anesthetist logs 1700 hours in the operating room, while the average UTC SRNA has 2,400 hours of O.R. experience.
In addition to Erlanger Health System and North Mississippi Medical Center, UTC students do clinical rotations at Memorial Hospital in Chattanooga, Floyd Medical Center in Rome, Georgia, and Hamilton Medical Center in Dalton, Georgia and Grandview Medical Center, which serves Jasper and Marion County.
For more information, email Linda-Hill@utc.edu or call 423-778-4563.