Keiser University hosted its first commencement ceremony for graduates completing their master’s degrees in Nurse Anesthesia at its newest Florida campus in Naples. Classes in this advanced nursing degree are limited to 32, which is the number of graduates who crossed the stage Saturday at the Naples Hilton to accept their degrees before an audience of well-wishers.

“It’s been an intense 28 months for our graduates as well as family and friends who have supported them, with many sacrifices along the way,” said Campus President Lynda Waterhouse. “The knowledge and skills you have gained during this time will be with you for the rest of your lives. You have persevered, and achieving your goal is well deserved.”

Wearing academic regalia, graduates took part in a hooding ceremony, reserved as special recognition for masters or doctoral degree candidates. During the ceremony, a faculty member or professional in the field places the hood over the head of the graduate, signifying their success in completing the graduate program.

Graduate Mallory Stanton was hooded by her mother, Marilyn Stanton, a Registered Nurse Anesthetist who is retiring as her daughter begins working at the same hospital in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Mallory is also a national champion in trap and skeet shooting, a sport in which marksmen use shotguns to shoot at clay targets thrown into the air by spring devices called traps. For fun, she enjoys skydiving and is planning to throw her graduation cap from the air in a post ceremonial skydive. She believes her avocation sharpened her abilities in the classroom and will also translate into her new profession

“I think the mindset that you acquire shooting competitively allows you to focus under pressure,” Stanton said. “If you’re good at something and you can focus, you can find a way to apply those skills in other areas.”

Sonya Pease, M.D., chief clinical officer for TeamHealth Anesthesia, gave the keynote address. She described some of her experiences from her early career in anesthesia care and noted that advances in recent years have made it one of the safest medical professions. Dr. Pease also passed along advice she received from her own commencement ceremony.

“If you always treat your patients like a beloved family member, you will make the right choices,” she said.

The Keiser University Master of Science in Nurse Anesthesia is a 28-month curriculum that provides a broad variety of clinical experiences to enable students to successfully pass the national certification exam to become a Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNA). The Naples campus includes simulated operating suites and a control room, which programs mannequins to simulate high-risk scenarios to train students.

This newly established campus offer another opportunity for Keiser University to provide advanced educational degree programs to students throughout Florida and nationwide, especially in the allied health field. This graduate-level degree program is also responsive to the state’s growing health care needs and the nation’s nursing shortage.

CRNAs are among the most in-demand advanced practice specialties in the health care field, and as such, are among the highest-paid nurses according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. The BLS also projects this profession to grow much faster than other occupations. The overall job outlook for nurse anesthetists is expected to increase by 31 percent by 2026, due in part to the health care needs of an aging population.