Miami Shores, Fla. - John McFadden, program administrator for the Barry University Master of Science in Anesthesiology program, was invited to meet with Florida Gov. Charlie Crist March 19, discussing one-on-one current issues in both health care and higher education.
McFadden received the invitation through his role as the president of the Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists, a position he has held since October 2007. The meeting took place in the Governor’s Suite in Tallahassee, where McFadden was also able to bring the Florida Association of Nurse Anesthetists Board of Directors, including several other Barry personnel – Director of the Anesthesiology program, Tony Umadhay, recent graduate Kathleen Sullivan, clinical instructors Mike Steighner and Bruce Weiner and current Barry student Gwen Randall.
“This was not a year in which we were lobbying for specific issues,” McFadden said. “This was an opportunity to reach out to policy makers about how we as nurse anesthetists can help, and how we can all work together to improve health care in Florida.”
Through the meeting, several issues were brought to the table – the impact that proposed cuts to the Florida Resident Access Grant would have on higher education and health care professions, access to health care in the Governor’s newly proposed health care plan, the role of nurse anesthetists and nurse practitioners in Florida health care and new technology in the anesthesia profession.
Of particular significance to many in higher education is Gov. Crist’s proposed budget, which cuts the Florida Resident Access Grant (FRAG). The FRAG currently awards $3,000 to in-state students attending private institutions, and eliminating this funding would spike tuition at Florida’s 28 independent colleges and universities.
This cut would have a dramatic impact across the board in higher education, but according to McFadden, will greatly reduce the number of students able to pursue an undergraduate education in health care related professions, and thus have long-reaching effects on health care in South Florida.
“So many of those who receive FRAG go into helping professions such as nursing,” McFadden said. “FRAG funding encourages those going into nursing at the undergraduate level, and that in turn affects our pool for advanced practitioners. Restricting access to undergraduate education restricts our pool.”
By restricting students’ access to undergraduate and graduate education, this will in turn limit the diversity and total numbers of the profession.
“Our profession is committed to adding richness through diversity, and promoting cultural competence,” McFadden said. “The rich mix of ethnic and cultural backgrounds in this program and profession helps us provide perspective when we are in the clinical setting.”
In addition to discussing FRAG cuts with Gov. Crist, McFadden also brought to the table several issues specific to the nurse anesthetists and advanced nursing professions. In particular, McFadden and Gov. Crist discussed the Governor’s proposed state health care plan, and how removing insurance requirements may affect – both positively and negatively – Florida residents’ access to health care. Also related to this, the two also discussed the role of nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists in state health care.
“There are a number of underserved and underprivileged areas in the state of Florida,” McFadden said. “We just need to make sure that nurse practitioners and nurse anesthetists are able to serve in their fullest capacity without being unnecessarily restricted.”
The meeting wrapped up with a discussion of new technology, which could automate delivery of anesthetics, and thus eliminate the continuous presence of a nurse anesthetist or physician anesthesiologist. The technology is currently under consideration for FDA approval and could be brought first into the state of Florida, removing the human factor from anesthetic delivery, an issue that concerns McFadden.
“Every patient receiving anesthesia deserves a human being at the head of the bed making decisions,” he said. “There are some decisions and the caring aspects that cannot be delivered by a computer. The Governor himself used this analogy; ‘we have autopilot on airplanes, but that doesn’t mean we eliminate the pilot.’”
And, while the subject matter was serious, according to McFadden, the Governor was receptive and made all in attendance feel relaxed.
“Gov. Crist was personable and a true gentleman,” McFadden said. “I enjoyed the opportunity to discuss the challenges we face in health care and education. There is no doubt the Governor left with a favorable impression of nurse anesthetists and, of course, Barry.”
McFadden is using this recent advocacy experience towards another trip that will be made to Washington April 14-15. While in Washington, McFadden hopes to meet with federal policy makers, including Sen. Mel Martinez, Reps. Connie Mack, Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and Florida Rep. Ari Porth.
At Barry, McFadden oversees the Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesiology program. Barry’s degree program is the largest in the state of Florida, and one of the largest in the nation. A nurse anesthetist is a specially-trained nurse who administers anesthesia in the form of medications to patients who are undergoing surgeries or specific procedures. Nurse anesthetists not only administer the anesthesia, but also stay with patients through the course of the procedure. Individuals administering anesthesia must be licensed and credentialed as either a nurse (nurse anesthetist) or a physician (anesthesiologist).
For more information, please contact McFadden at (305) 899-3287.