Dear Deans of Nursing:

A sense of urgency is upon us. Now, certainly not later, is the time to seriously consider starting a nurse anesthesia education program at your institution. Consider this fact: Of the 106 nurse anesthesia master’s degree programs in the U.S. and Puerto Rico that are currently accredited by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) Council on Accreditation (COA), not one is located at a historically black college or university (HBCU). This means that any BSN graduates from your fine institutions who are seriously interested in pursuing a rewarding advanced practice career in nurse anesthesia will have to apply elsewhere.

Why now rather than later? The COA has drafted a position stating that it will not consider accrediting any new master’s degree nurse anesthesia programs after 2015. This is because all accredited nurse anesthesia programs will be converted into doctoral programs by 2025.

Here’s another fact to consider: There are currently 37,000 certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) in the United States—yet there is less than 6% minority representation in the nurse anesthesia profession. How are we going to properly introduce and prepare racially and culturally diverse nursing students to enter the nurse anesthesia field? When will the minority nurse leaders who serve as administrators and educators in HBCU nursing schools sit down to have a serious dialogue about how adding a nurse anesthesia program can benefit both their students and their institutions?

Today’s historically black schools of nursing have moved proudly into the new millennium, adding state-of-the-art buildings, “smart rooms,” simulation labs and other educational innovations. Many of you are currently in the process of adding graduate degree programs, or expanding existing graduate-level offerings. What better time to embark on adding a nurse anesthesia program as a viable option for your BSN graduates, as well as other talented students from across the country who are interested in this growing specialty? Which HBCU school of nursing will one day be recognized as one of the nation’s premier nurse anesthesia programs, widely respected as a leading source of scholars, practitioners and innovators in the CRNA profession?

The time is now and the decision is yours.

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