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Fostering the next generation of CRNAs

L to R: Leigh Ann Clark, Aaron Ostrowski and Chelsea Hyre (Cord)

Choosing a career path is not always easy for students. But sometimes a person or an event can help influence a student. For three CRNAs who graduated from South Fayette High School, the career inspiration started with an anatomy and physiology course.

As a young man, Aaron Ostrowski knew he wanted to help people, and to him that meant helping through the medical field. Though he quickly discovered that pre-med track in college was not for him, he did learn about the benefits of pursuing a career in nursing. After graduating he realized he could help others interested in the field navigate the professional options available through a nursing career.

“Kent Nichols was my high school anatomy and physiology teacher. He was my early inspiration to move in this career direction. I wanted to recognize his efforts and expose his students to the options available in nursing. In the earliest years as an ICU nurse, I visited his classes to speak about nursing, the educational pathway, and the career options,” Ostrowski said.

The interaction with the class and students has evolved since those initial speaking engagements. After Ostrowski completed nurse anesthesia school in 2001, he brought the learning experience into the hospital. The students now have the opportunity to visit the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing and UPMC-Presbyterian to learn about CRNAs, participate in hands-on activities, and visit the operating room to shadow CRNAs.

One of Pennsylvania’s newest CRNAs, Leigh Ann Clark, was one of the students who attended the field trip. Her class was given the chance to observe a procedure with a group of University of Pittsburgh student nurse anesthetists. It was the first time Clark had an in-depth look at healthcare careers and shadowing nurses, nurse anesthetists and physicians in a surgical setting left an impression on her.

“I really had not given a great deal of consideration about going to nursing school, but this day changed my thinking. I made the decision to apply to nursing school with the end goal of becoming a CRNA always in the back of my mind,” Clark said.

Clark, who received her certification on January 4, commented that being a CRNA places you in a stimulating work environment in virtually every surgical care setting.

“The blending of the physiologic and emotional aspects of patient care by the CRNA is something that has always appealed to me,” Clark said. “The concept that a nurse anesthetist cares for a patient before, during and through the end of a procedure completes the full circle of care, which is something I identify with personally and professionally.”

Another young CRNA also had the opportunity to participate in the field trip through South Fayette High School. Chelsea Hyre (Cord) was born with a medical condition that required numerous surgeries, and as she grew up and learned more about her diagnosis, she knew that she wanted to pursue a career in nursing. But she did not identify nurse anesthesiology until her high school anatomy and physiology trip to the University of Pittsburgh and UPMC-Presbyterian.

“Aaron was very influential [about my] decision on that day because he helped me understand how intricate, exciting and rewarding anesthesia is,” Hyre (Cord) said.

She received her certification in January 2016 and started at Geisinger Medical Center shortly thereafter. She loves that her career brings a variety of experiences and the ability to do something different every day.

Ostrowski found a way to pay forward his love of nurse anesthesia, and through his involvement with his high school, he has been able to share his passion with others. While a number of South Fayette High School students have gone on to pursue careers in nursing, Leigh Ann Clark and Chelsea Hyre (Cord) are two graduates who went on to become CRNAs.

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