UNE receives Nurse Anesthesia Traineeship grant for 30th year

Two U N E D N P students practice on a patient simulator
UNE nurse anesthesia students practice in the simulation lab.

The University of New England’s Doctor of Nursing Practice (D.N.P.) in Nurse Anesthesia degree program has recently received a grant to support students while training in underserved, rural counties in Maine and Northern New England, marking three decades of support. 

The Health Resources and Services Administration, which is a part of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, has awarded the Nurse Anesthesia Traineeship (NAT) grant to UNE for the 30th year. Each year, the grant is directly distributed to many of the nurse anesthesia students who are completing their two-month clinical training at one of 38 UNE partner hospitals in Maine, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, and Rhode Island. 

“The grant really helps the students with one of the largest hurdles with training in a rural community – housing and travel expenses,” said Cheryl Nimmo, D.N.P., CRNA, UNE Nurse Anesthesia program director.  

UNE’s Nurse Anesthesia program, originally a master’s program, has transitioned to a Doctor of Nursing Practice degree and prepares the next generation of local certified registered nurse anesthetists, or CRNAs, to deliver safe anesthesia and pain management services, especially to medically underserved populations. 

Philip Kearse (M.S.N.A., ’23), a UNE student registered nurse anesthetist, originally from a small town in South Carolina, said he selected UNE for not only the location, but for the opportunity to train in underserved communities.  

"It was very important to me that, if my intention was to eventually live and help serve in one of these areas, I wanted that program to cast a broad enough net for the clinical sites to be able to give me that experience and exposure – and UNE did just that,” he said. 

In addition to the two months of clinical training within hospitals throughout Northern New England, the 36-month program includes two semesters of on-campus didactic courses with five semesters that emphasize advanced coursework, simulation lab experiences, and completion of a scholarly research project. 

“Our students are better prepared to assume the role of a licensed CRNA once they graduate because of our two-month rural clinical site training,” Nimmo said, noting that the UNE Nurse Anesthesia program is the only one in Maine and all of Northern New England. 

“They are much more confident in their skills, their knowledge, and their abilities because they've put them to the test in these rural locations,” Nimmo added.  

Mitigating the expenses associated with training in rural settings has allowed UNE students, who want to serve in rural communities after graduation, the opportunity to focus on their studies, said Kearse.  

“I felt like I was best poised to be present, learn, and not have my mind elsewhere,” Kearse said, adding that the grant assisted him with housing at the different rural sites in Maine and New Hampshire. Kearse will graduate from the Nurse Anesthesia program in August and said he is looking forward to addressing the anesthesia needs of rural New England. 

“Housing is expensive. Travel is expensive, but being in these smaller communities has absolutely reinforced that this is something that I want to do,” Kearse said.