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Nurse Anesthesiology Program Receives Prestigious Crystal Apple Award

26 February 2005 | Fort Lauderdale, Florida

The Crystal Apple Award is given by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Education Committee at the annual National Assembly of School Faculty (AOSF). The Crystal Apple is the most prestigious program-level award offered within the Nurse Anesthesia Educational community. This year the AOSF meeting was in Ft Lauderdale, FL. Crystal Apple entries were judged by the Education Committee on the following criteria:

• Innovation
• Usefulness
• Practicality
• Applicability to other programs
• Degree of impact on educational environment

The recipient was announced at the Assembly of School of Faculty on Saturday, February 26, 2005. Our entry titled: The Creation of a Structured Mentoring Program: The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing Nurse Anesthesia Program /University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Mentoring Partnership was selected as the winner! Krista Bragg CRNA, MSN was named Mentoring Coordinator for the University of Pittsburgh Nurse Anesthesia Program last year and deserves much of the credit as do the many clinical CRNAs who have selflessly donated their time to the effort. Dr. Leslie Hoffman was supportive throughout and was the keynote speaker at a mentoring CE program for CRNAs. Mr. JW Wallace (UPMC) also spoke and was a catalyst for program development. Ms. Ella Thomas (CRNA Director UPMC) provided UPMC administrative support and shared her personal history and approach to mentoring of minority students. Dr. Gail Wolf provided guidance and support throughout as Ms. Braggs’ mentor in her administration masters program. The NURSAN faculty and student body have participated and given of time selflessly over the last six months. In support of the program we received an unrestricted $3,500.00 educational grant from Glaxo Smith Kline which allowed us to hold the mentoring CE program at a local restaurant as well as second planned event for this Spring.(this was declared as per protocol).

We have now applied for and received IRB approval (Exempt 0502044) to study participants in our 1st year class and compare responses with our 2nd year group who did not have the benefit of such a program. We plan to analyze the results and publish in the AANA Journal in Fall 2005. We then plan to conduct a follow-up study in February 2006 comparing perceptions of our 1st year students one year later and also against the perceptions of their CRNA mentors.

I believe that this is a strong example of what is possible in our efforts to enrich the educational environment, support both student and community relationships, and offer value to our primary clinical affiliates at UPMC.

John O'Donnell

The Creation of a Structured Mentoring Program: The University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing Nurse Anesthesia Program /University of Pittsburgh Medical Center (UPMC) Mentoring Partnership

Krista Bragg CRNA, MSN Mentoring Coordinator; John O'Donnell CRNA, MSN; Laura Palmer CRNA, MNEd; Ella Thomas CRNA, BS; Gail Wolf RN, DNS,FAAN; Leslie Hoffman RN, PhD; JW Wallace PhD; Sandra Sell CRNA, MSN; Bettina Dixon CRNA, MSN; William Teskey CRNA, MSN; Deanna Alko SRNA, BSN; Amy Baker SRNA, BSN; Zina Carrol SRNA, BSN.


Develop a confidential, structured, professional mentoring program for the student anesthetist providing an opportunity for role modeling, transfer of skills and knowledge, feedback, advice, networking, and support.

Specific Objectives:

  1. Facilitate SRNA adaptation to the student role with follow-up through transition to the graduate role and entry into the workforce.
  2. Enhance involvement, satisfaction, and sense of contribution by CRNA clinical instructors toward the development of the next generation of providers.
  3. Acknowledge the value and hard work of the CRNA clinical instructors by offering a 5 credit CE meeting on mentoring and clinical education.
  4. Provide UPMC Health System leadership with an opportunity to foster positive relationships with both SRNAs and CRNAs in the areas of improved recruiting and retention.


An article on student perspectives for mentoring was solicited by the AANA Education Committee in 2003 and published by students and faculty from the University of Pittsburgh (Meno K, Keaveny B, O’Donnell JM. Mentoring in the Operating Room: A Student Perspective. Journal of American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.71,5. 2003;337-341). This work indicated that SRNAs clearly recognize the value of CRNA mentoring. Based on the results of our article, we decided to implement a CRNA/SRNA mentoring program. A series of planning meetings were held, a mentoring coordinator (MC) was appointed, and a mentoring task force was convened. Corporate sponsorship (Glaxo-Smith-Kline) provided an unrestricted educational grant for the program which included a Mentor/Clinical Educator CE workshop. Based on current literature, a mentoring questionnaire was developed and distributed to all first year SRNAs at the University of Pittsburgh Nurse Anesthesia Program and to potential CRNA mentors at primary UPMC clinical sites. The MC conducted an informational session with the 1st yr students to describe the program and distributed questionnaires and contracts (the contracts stipulate a minimum of once a month contact throughout the 28 months of the program). The mentoring/clinical education workshop developed for the CRNA group included lectures on the definition of mentoring, key mentor concerns, student learning styles, normative modeling, and the elements of effective clinical evaluation. Five AANA CE credits were earned through attendance. Mentor guidelines and expectations were distributed to all conference attendees along with mentoring contracts. Within 2 weeks of this meeting, SRNA/CRNA pairs were assigned according to key traits and interests identified through the questionnaires. All parties were notified of the pairing via email. The MC conducts ongoing monitoring of mentor/mentee pairs via phone and email contacts. An anonymous survey of both 1st and 2nd year students is being conducted to investigate differences in the student experience before and after implementation of the formal CRNA/SRNA mentoring program. This survey will be implemented again at the end of year 1 and year 2. A separate survey will be utilized to evaluate CRNA mentor perceptions of the experience at the end of year 1 and 2.


  1. A total of 35 CRNAs participated in the educational workshop with 5 CE credits awarded.
  2. Responses by students within the new program have been highly favorable with numerous anecdotal reports of the benefits of a close CRNA/SRNA mentoring relationship. Example: Bolstered by mentor support, two first year students have identified problematic clinical supervision situations with the result of immediate program intervention resulting in a positive educational experience.
  3. An anonymous survey of all students is now being conducted to investigate differences in the student experience before (2nd year SRNA) and after (1st year SRNA) implementation of the program.
  4. Interim monitoring of the program by the MC documents consistently positive feedback from both mentors and students with no CRNA/SRNA pair reassignments required.

O'Donnell | 10-Mar-2005 | bws
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