A guest speaker who visited Wanda Wilson’s high school in Point Pleasant, W.Va., led her to a profession she’s loved for nearly 35 years, and one she shares her enthusiasm for around the country.
That guest speaker’s influence was the first of many mentoring experiences Wilson has encountered over the years on her path from small-town West Virginia to becoming a certified registered nurse anesthetist (CRNA), a PhD, and ultimately an associate professor and leader of a graduate program.
Now director of the College of Nursing’s nurse anesthetist program, Wilson was recently named president-elect of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists.
She will serve a one-year term beginning in August 2007.
“When I was younger, most women became nurses or teachers,” says Wilson. “The CRNA who visited my high school made it sound like a really interesting career.
“The thing that’s been the most influential in my life has been mentorship,” Wilson says. “Physicians and other CRNAs have encouraged me to be the best I can be, to educate myself and to get involved with the profession on a national and international level.”
It was the CRNAs she shadowed while in college at Holzer Medical Center School of Nursing in Gallipolis, Ohio, who encouraged Wilson to apply for University Hospital’s School of Nurse Anesthesia program.
Now part of the College of Nursing’s graduate program, UC’s nurse anesthesia course is currently ranked 10th out of 102 by U.S.News & World Report.
Wilson, who describes herself as “a shy girl from a small town,” never left Cincinnati after graduating from the anesthesia program. She went on to earn four degrees from UC and has had a long clinical and educational career at UC and area hospitals. Maintaining a clinical as well as an academic schedule is important to Wilson.
“I want to be a role model,” she says. “It says something to people if you have hands-on experience in the subject you’re teaching. No one can complain to me about the work in the operating room, because I’m down there with them pushing stretchers, starting IVs and monitoring patients.
“If I wasn’t clinically up to date, I think I would lose some credibility.” Anesthesiology has changed greatly since she entered the profession, and Wilson looks forward to future improvements.
“Patients generally awaken quicker from the medications we now use and they don’t seem to have as many side effects. The technology has greatly improved too, and there’s better monitoring equipment,” she says.
“It’s been real eye-opening to watch how the field of anesthesiology has developed,” says Wilson.
“You can’t sit back and not continue to learn, because things are constantly changing and being updated. You have the opportunity to learn every day.”
Wilson has traveled throughout the United States and abroad sharing the excitement and dedication of fellow CRNAs.
“We’re a close-knit community,” she explains. “Nurse anesthetists have a 95 percent job satisfaction rate. That’s unheard of in most occupations.”