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TXWES Nurse Anesthesia Awarded Grant for Leading-Edge Trauma Care Specialty

06.06.2024 | By: Texas Wesleyan University
Students and Professors in a GPNA Lab

A significant $500,000 grant has been awarded to Texas Wesleyan University's Graduate Programs of Nurse Anesthesia (GPNA), propelling them to the forefront of a state-wide effort to strengthen the medical workforce. This two-year grant fuels the creation of a specialized track in trauma care in nurse anesthesia – one of the first of its kind in the country. 

Trauma injuries are the leading cause of premature death for people 45 and younger in the United States, and Texas holds the unfortunate distinction of having the highest rates of both fatal car crashes and gun deaths, according to 2021 federal data. This makes trauma expertise a critical skill for nurse anesthetists. Trauma patients are often in unstable conditions and unable to communicate their medical history, allergies or medications. The ability to develop effective treatment plans under such circumstances requires a specialized skillset. 

“You don’t know what you don’t know, and that can be a very dangerous situation,” said Dr. Terri Kane, program director and professor of nurse anesthesia. 

The grant specifically benefits Texas-native students, who make up about 35% of the program. It facilitates a unique two-month clinical rotation focused on trauma care within local hospitals. Students will start the specialty clinicals in late spring 2025. 

“These students won’t just go to the operating room and hope a trauma case will come in on a night they’re working — they’re going to be in the emergency room, going to be out with the ambulance, be in the helicopter and see emergency patients all the way through the process,” Dr. Kane said. 

By collaborating with paramedics, students will gain a deeper understanding of the decision-making process in various trauma scenarios. This translates to graduates who can enter the workforce with a sharper focus, honed critical-thinking skills and the ability to act quickly under pressure. 

The grant's impact extends beyond this specialized track. It also provides financial support for student conference attendance, including travel and lodging. Additionally, it facilitates the acquisition of cutting-edge equipment, including a state-of-the-art simulator that allows for internal examination via a specialized scope. This, according to Dr. Kane and Dr. Brian Cornelius, assistant professor of nurse anesthesia, will not only bolster student portfolios but also enhance the trauma care curriculum for all program participants. 

"This specialized training sets our graduates apart," says Dr. Kane. "They'll enter the workforce with a distinct advantage, having honed skills and gained experiences unavailable to most new nurses." 

This critical shortage of qualified nurses in Texas highlights the importance of initiatives like Texas Wesleyan's program. According to the Texas Center for Nursing Workforce Studies, more than 72% of programs turning away applicants cited lack of clinical space as the most or second most important factor in that decision. More than 57% also cited a lack of applicants for budgeted faculty positions. 

Dr. Kane sees this grant as a catalyst. Not only will it bolster Texas' medical workforce by creating these trauma care specialists, but it also sets a new standard for trauma care education on a national level. With hopes to expand the GPNA program into additional specialties like pediatrics, obstetrics and cardiac care, Texas Wesleyan's GPNA program is poised to become a national leader in shaping the future of nurse anesthesia 

Ready to Make a Difference in Trauma Care? 

Are you a passionate registered nurse looking to become a nurse anesthetist and elevate your skills to grow into a leader in trauma care? Texas Wesleyan University's GPNA program offers a unique opportunity to gain the specialized training and experience you need to thrive in this critical area. Visit our website to learn more about our program and how you can become part of the next generation of trauma care specialists.

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