NNAW 2010-Wake Forest University Service Week Project

National Nurse Anesthetists Week 2010

By Martha Ortiz, Marilee Runge, and Kelly Welch, student nurse anesthetists
 
As graduate students of the Nurse Anesthesia Program at Wake Forest University Baptist Medical Center (WFUBMC) and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro (UNCG), we collectively thought it would be a great service learning opportunity to get out into the community. Our purpose and goal were to educate the public about nurse anesthetists and the collaborative role we play in the delivery of safe anesthesia to patients in various settings across the United States.
 
In looking at our options, we selected Best Health at Hanes Mall in Winston-Salem as our promotional site. Best Health has been a trusted source for hands-on health knowledge in the community for many years. This off-campus site promotes disease prevention, health management, and wellness in the face of health challenges throughout the life span. Best Health has a large community base, generally middle-aged and elderly individuals who visit the site frequently for free health screenings, educational offerings, resources, and healthcare referrals. The central location, target population, and association with WFUBMC, are some of the reasons we selected this site for our service learning project.
 
 
Wake Forest Service Week Project, 2010, JPG
Exhibit booth at Best Health, Hanes Mall, Winston-Salem, N.C.
 

After obtaining permission from Best Health to set up a booth for National Nurse Anesthetists Week, we collected promotional materials from the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) and our own nurse anesthesia program office. The booth setup included: a large poster with pictures and information about the nurse anesthesia program at WFUBMC, promotional offerings from the AANA (magnets, pens, buttons), informational pamphlets, brochures, and hands-on equipment such as an intubating mannequin, ambu-bag, different size masks and endotracheal tubes, oral airways, laryngoscope blades, as well as, examples of common drugs and inhaled agents used (actual drugs not included). The booth was staffed by us and other volunteers from our program, Monday through Friday, during the location’s busiest hours of 10 a.m. -12:30 p.m. and 6 p.m. - 8:30 p.m. each day. However, the nurse anesthesia information booth also remained open and available to visitors during Best Health’s operational hours.
 
 
The booth setup included: a large poster with pictures and information about the nurse anesthesia program at Wake Forest University
 

It was a great experience and a lot of fun to get out to the community during National Nurse Anesthetists Week. Over the course of the week we were able to speak with more than 100 people about the advanced practice of nurse anesthesia. Our demographics were mostly middle-aged to elderly individuals, both males and females, and primarily white and African Americans. Many of the men were veterans and loved to share their war stories and appreciation for the nurses who cared for them. We also had several individuals who had either daughters or granddaughters either already in the nursing profession or currently pursuing a degree in nursing.
 
 
Wake Forest University Booth 2, JPG
"Over the course of the week we were able to speak with more than 100 people about the advanced practice of nurse anesthesia."
 

It was interesting to note how often the term “anesthesia” was associated with physicians and not nurses by the general public. “Are you a nurse or a doctor?” they would ask. “Do the doctors tell you how to give the anesthesia?” “Who actually takes care of me during surgery?”  “Do you leave me after I am under anesthesia?” “Who teaches you how to use all this stuff (equipment)?” It felt good to be able to answer these questions, clarify misconceptions, and add some healthcare knowledge and new vocabulary (like CRNA and nurse anesthetist) to all of these inquiring minds.
 
 
Wake Forest University Booth 1, JPG
“A nurse anesthetist will always be at your side,” we would comment.
 

Overall, the individuals we spoke with were very friendly, engaging, and receptive. Most of the people we spoke with were unaware that nurses could go into advanced practice specialties like anesthesia. They also were impressed with the journey, experience, and time commitment required in achieving a master’s degree in nurse anesthesia. Many people enjoyed hearing about the different clinical sites we rotate through in the surrounding areas. We all took great pride in being able to clarify and educate community members about the misconception of anesthesia being solely a doctor’s role. We handed out literature from the AANA to these individuals and explained that nurse anesthetists alone, or in collaboration with anesthesiologists, provide anesthesia in many hospitals, surgical centers, and private offices in both urban and rural areas all over the U.S. CRNAs are generally the anesthesia provider that patients will “go to sleep with and wake up to” when having surgery. “A nurse anesthetist will always be at your side,” we would comment. Most people were very clear that they would prefer not to have to go to a hospital at all, but were appreciative of the information and reassurance we gave them in connecting a face with a profession and its title. We really enjoyed educating the community and promoting our wonderful profession. We are grateful for the opportunity to take part in this activity and being able to make a difference in the lives of the people we educated.