A program in nurse anesthesia was initiated at the University of Kansas under the auspices of the Department of Anesthesiology in 1966. The first four students were admitted in June 1967 and full accreditation was granted by the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists in 1968.
In response to public and professional demands for quality service and credible education, a minimal curriculum grew into a full complement of course offerings. The Kansas Board of Regents recognized this educational excellence by granting the program baccalaureate status in 1978 after having served as a certificate program to that point.
In 1982 the program was granted full department status and graduated its first bachelor’s degree students that same year. In 1984 the program moved to the graduate level, offering a master's degree while phasing out the bachelor's degree.
Carol Elliott, CRNA, MPA, Ph.D., was the first department chair of the program in the School of Health Professions. Upon her retirement in 2007, Donna Nyght, CRNA, DNP, was appointed her successor and continues to lead the program today.
It was proposed in 1993 that the program expand to include satellite locations. Sponsored by a grant provided by the Division of Nursing, Health and Human Services, the first satellite program was established at Mount Carmel Medical Center in Pittsburg, Kan. Students at a satellite campus began with the first two semesters on the KU Medical Center campus. A second satellite program was initiated at Overland Park Regional Medical Center in Overland Park, Kan., in 2003. Using Web-based instruction the program then provided the required didactics online to students who completed their clinical experiences at the satellite affiliates. The curriculum at the satellite programs was identical to that offered on the KU Medical Center campus.
Further collaboration took place from 1988 to 2008 via a cooperative agreement with the BryanLGH Nurse Anesthesia program in Lincoln, Neb. Students from BryanLGH completed their course work at the University of Kansas Medical Center and received a master's degree from the University of Kansas.
The entry level clinical doctorate was approved by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs May 25, 2012. The first clinical doctorate cohort of 24 students began the program on May 29 of that year with graduates receiving the Doctor of Nursing Practice degree in May 2015. KU was among the first 10% of nurse anesthesia programs in the U.S. to offer a clinical doctorate. In 2016, the name of the degree changed to Doctor of Nurse Anesthesia Practice.
More than 400 CRNAs have entered the professional ranks of nurse anesthesia as University of Kansas graduates. Today the Nurse Anesthesia program is a national leader in education and clinical instruction in the field, with numerous recognitions and high rankings by local and national publications. It remains one of eight departments in the School of Health Professions on the medical center campus of the University of Kansas. Continued close cooperation with the Department of Anesthesiology allows the collective mission of physicians and CRNAs to be that of producing highly qualified anesthesia practitioners.