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You Visit Tour. Webb Lion Fountain. June 1 2017. Photo David B. Hollingsworth

Program Spotlight: Nurse Anesthesia

One of Old Dominion University's most successful programs operates far from the main campus, in the Virginia Beach Center. The graduate program in nurse anesthesia teaches experienced nurses to administer anesthesia and monitor patients' responses and vital signs during surgery.

Graduates have a near-perfect record on the national certification exam, which they attribute to a demanding curriculum and laser-like attention from faculty members. That connection extends outside the classroom. The program's director, Nate Apatov, invites all students who are away from home to his house for Thanksgiving.

Old Dominion launched the program in 1995, and it moved to the Virginia Beach center in 2012. Here's more about it.


Cheryl Rutherford '15 moved here from Oregon with her husband to attend the program. It didn't disappoint her: "I definitely got what I needed. The faculty are incredible. I could call any of them up any time I needed help." She works as a nurse anesthetist for Atlantic Anesthesia.

Tayoh Valdez '17 said faculty members are "genuinely invested in your success and getting out and being a good nurse anesthetist and providing safe care. The amount of clinical hours we're getting is a lot more than the minimum requirement" - about 700 cases, Apatov said, compared with the mandated 550.


Ninety-eight percent of ODU's students passed the CRNA national exam in the past four years, compared with a 86 percent national pass rate, Apatov said. All get jobs afterward; some get two or three offers.


Applicants must have bachelor's degrees and experience in critical care nursing. Only 16 were admitted to this year's incoming class, which will be the first to complete a doctorate, requiring a full-time 3-year course of study. Why not enroll more? Old Dominion wants to make sure class size doesn't exceed job demand. Plus, Apatov said, "we only accept students who look, smell and taste like they will succeed."


Students train on a "high-fidelity mannequin." "He literally comes to life," Apatov said. "He speaks; his eyes open up. When you give him medication he's allergic to, he swells up." It's connected to a state-of-the-art anesthesia machine, which delivers oxygen and anesthetic gases and monitors vital signs. "They've done a very, very good job of replicating an operating room," Valdez said.

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