Nurse anesthetists are sought after all over the country, school officials said.
By JoANNE VIVIANO
VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER
YOUNGSTOWN -- Corrine Sallaz uses a laryngoscope to peer down the throat of her "dummy" patient.
The lighted scope helps her position a breathing tube correctly.
The Youngstown State University graduate student, already a registered nurse, is practicing on this artificial human to show how nurse anesthetist trainees at the St. Elizabeth Health Center School for Nurse Anesthetists learn the tricks of their trade.
The school, established at the health center in 1947 by Bel-Park Anesthesia Associates, recently began a new partnership with YSU.
Until the start of this academic year, YSU students were ineligible for the program. The 24-month nurse anesthetist program was added this year to YSU's master of science degree program in nursing. Students study at both the university and the hospital, where they receive hands-on training from Bel-Park physicians and nurse anesthetists.
Growing, lucrative field: Nurse anesthetists are part of a burgeoning field in which nurses work in surgical units with anesthesiologists, said the school's program director, Beverly A. Rodgers, a certified registered nurse anesthetist.
Students in her program are offered several jobs upon graduation.
The school provides a "top-notch" program and responds to the needs of students who want to work in a profession making a good salary, said Dr. John Yemma, dean of YSU's Bitonte College of Health and Human Services.
"There's a tremendous need," he said. "We're attracting students from all over the country."
Professor Alice Burger, associate to Yemma, said the new programming helps reach YSU's goals of increasing studies in specially targeted areas and expanding graduate-level programing.
Since 1989, the St. Elizabeth school has had a partnership with La Roche College in Pittsburgh, where students graduated with a master's degree in health sciences. That partnership will end this year as the new partnership with YSU begins.
Rodgers said the partnership with YSU benefits students because the university is close to the hospital and students are able to stay close to home as they complete rigorous study schedules at both the university and the medical facility.
Autonomy: Sallaz, of Poland, has worked nine years as a nurse, with eight years in the emergency department, and holds a bachelor's degree in nursing from YSU.
She chose to continue on with the master's program because she likes the independence that nurse anesthetists can achieve but also likes being part of an operating room team.
Student Sherri Pesce of Poland worked more than four years as a nurse in Columbus with experience in cardiac intensive care. Also holding a bachelor's degree from YSU, she said she wanted more autonomy.
Because there are only 85 such programs in the nation -- and only five in Ohio -- competition to enter the school is tough, Rodgers said. She accepts about 10 to 12 students each year. This fall, she chose from about 50 applicants.
In demand: Upon graduation, she said, students can make salaries of more than $100,000 in certain areas of the country. Demand is high, with students receiving offers when they first sign on as students. Rodgers says she often gets calls from surgeons in desperate need of nurse anesthetists. One, she said, recently needed 10.
Rodgers said the school's influence in the area means that no local patients are ever left postponing a procedure due to a lack of nurse anesthetists. The school, she said, has provided 88 percent of the nurse anesthetists in the area.