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Nurse anesthetist professor to be inducted into the American Academy of Nursing

07.26.2023 | By: Valerie Spears
Paul Austin Headshot

When you think of nurses, you may think of them working in hospitals or doctors' offices. But Paul N. Austin, Ph.D., CRNA, director of evidence-based education & doctor of nurse anesthesia program curriculum at Texas Wesleyan, has helped train military nurses working in hostile environments for over 30 years.  

Dr. Austin has worked in nursing since graduating with his RN from St. Lawrence Psychiatric Center School of Nursing in Ogdensburg, New York in 1978. From there, he went to State University of New York: College of Technology Utica to receive his BSN and entered into the Air Force. He received more schooling through military programs, earning a B.S. in a Navy nurse anesthesia program, a master’s at the University at Buffalo and eventually getting his Ph.D. at the University of Cincinnati College of Nursing. 

He even served as the program director for the Air Force Nurse Anesthesia program at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base, which used Texas Wesleyan as its academic affiliate at the time.

Dr. Austin says he loves that the nursing field is very broad and open to many possibilities of what someone can study. He has several years of research in the field, including studying transport ventilators for military use and machine ventilators used in critical care during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Nursing offers the opportunity for someone to work in a real wide variety of settings and find the area that they like,” he said. “When I started my Ph.D. program, I really didn’t have a lot of great ideas to pursue for research. I ended up doing research on transport ventilators that transport critically ill and wounded military causalities to transport by aircraft.” 

His contributions and impact on advancing the public’s health has led Dr. Austin to be inducted as a fellow of the American Academy of Nursing, which is a significant milestone in a nurse’s career. The academy has fellows from over 40 countries who contribute by engaging with leaders to improve health care policies.  

“It’s a very humbling experience,” he said. “You never feel like that you’re good enough, or around long enough or done enough things, but I was encouraged by a number of colleagues in the academy to apply.” 

Dr. Austin was selected after a competitive and rigorous application process that included reviewing nearly 400 applications in which 253 professionals were invited to be inducted as 2023 fellows. 

 “The Academy continues to convene and celebrate nurses who make extraordinary contributions to improve health through the generation, synthesis and dissemination of nursing knowledge,” said president of the academy Kenneth R. White, PhD, RN, AGACNP, ACHPN, FACHE, FAAN, in a press release. “This year’s group of inductees truly represents today’s thought leaders and the diversity of our profession’s policy leaders, practitioners, educators and innovators. Each Fellow of the academy is changing the future of health and health care through their support to advance equity, promote inclusion and lift up the next generation of nurses, advancing the academy’s vision of healthy lives for all people.” 

And while this achievement is a great honor for Dr. Austin, he remains humble in knowing his impact on helping other nurses in the field, especially those in the military. Many of the nurse anesthetists in the armed forces care for patients in very hostile and foreign environments and work to provide comfort in care, despite their surroundings. 

“One of my biggest accomplishments is teaching and touching the lives of those nurse anesthetists, and hopefully ensuring their competence and ability to care for all of their patients,” he said.   

Dr. Austin continues to work at Texas Wesleyan, helping build educational practices for future nurse anesthetists and mentoring students. He said the support he and the program receive at the University is helping the program continue to thrive.  

And now as an inductee into the academy, he will continue to mentor and sponsor other deserving nurses to apply to become fellows.