NAVIGATION

October 16, 2017

Higher Ed

Gain from no pain: Profile of Wolford College's nurse anesthetist program

Amy Martinez | 5/24/2017

In the late-1990s, Collier Anesthesia, a private medical group based in Naples, was struggling to find enough nurse anesthetists to serve a growing number of patients.

Hiring temporary agency staff proved too expensive. So Thomas Cook, the group’s president, got into the education business, partnering with Edward Morton, then CEO of Naples Community Hospital, and a nurse anesthetist named Norman Wolford.

The trio figured the best way to solve the labor problem was to help more people become certified registered nurse anesthetists (CRNAs) and launched a master’s-level training program in nurse anesthesia. Naming their program after Wolford, they affiliated with Florida Gulf Coast University, which had yet to create its own program. The school graduated its first class — 17 students — in 2005.

By that time, however, the program was bringing in more tuition dollars for FGCU than the university was spending on the program, says Lynda Waterhouse, then-executive director of Collier Anesthesia. One factor: Many of the students came to enroll in the program from outside Florida and paid higher, out-of-state tuition. Waterhouse said the program decided to part ways with the university, believing it “could give the students more value at a lesser cost by becoming independent.”

Since then, Wolford has operated as a for-profit institution, owned by the same people who own Collier Anesthesia. Today, Wolford is the only single-purpose nurse anesthesia college in Florida and one of only two nationwide. (The other is in Tennessee.) Each year, Wolford graduates about 60 students who typically go onto pass a national certification exam to become CRNAs…

 

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