Lawrence S. Bloomberg Faculty of Nursing

Canada’s First Nurse Practitioner in Anesthesia Care Program Celebrates Recent Graduates

(from l to r) Charlotte McCallum, Dr. Vanessa Burkoski and Heather Whittle from London Health Sciences Centre.

In 2006 the Ministry of Health and Long-Term Care looked for answers to reduce surgery wait times, due to anesthesiologist shortages, and improve patient care.  U of T Nursing provided a key solution by creating Canada’s first Nurse Practitioner in Anesthesia Care (NP-A) program.  Designed to increase the continuity of care for patients in Canadian hospitals, Bloomberg Nursing offered the program with four students in 2009 as a pilot to great success.  The proper course structure was implemented in 2012 and this past December marked another milestone as three students graduated from this stream.

The graduates of this intensive one-year program, Kevin Zizzo, Charlotte McCallum  and Heather Whittle  walked away with more than a piece of paper; they became part an elite group who have the distinction of being pioneers for this NP-A role.

“The NP Anesthesia Program was a wonderful opportunity for me both to advance my own professional career and to advance the definition of what it means to be a nurse in our country,” said Heather Whittle, nurse practitioner, Anaesthesia and Perioperative Care at London Health Sciences Centre. “Nurse practitioners in Anesthesia Care will be able to improve the patient’s experience of surgery and pain, and will provide continuity through the perioperative experience, and it’s been an amazing journey for me!”

Aiming to provide the theoretical knowledge and clinical experience necessary for the continuum of anesthesia care, Bloomberg created the NP-A program offering two education streams for interested graduate students.  The MN (Nurse Practitioner Field) Concurrent Diploma in Anesthesia Care is offered to students who are recently graduates, or in the process of graduating, from the MN-NP program.  The Post-Master of Nursing (Nurse Practitioner Field) Diploma in Anesthesia Care is tailored to nurse practitioners currently registered with the College Of Nurses of Ontario and who already have a Master of Nursing degree.  Both streams address the need to provide continuity of care for complex patients, enhanced pain management strategies beyond the acute surgical stay and effective follow through on patient care in the community.  On a broader level, these new, specialized graduates have a strong voice in communicating among health care providers and engaging in further research and education.

“I enjoyed teaching Charlotte, Heather and Kevin as they were fully engaged in trying to create a new role that has a number of challenges,” said Cynthia Struthers, program coordinator and course instructor until 2012 and Bloomberg Nursing professor.  “When this role succeeds in health care settings, it will be great to look back and know that Bloomberg Nursing students and faculty helped to create this new nursing field in Canada.”

Opting to do their 600 hours of clinical placement closer to home, McCallum and Whittle were the first students in the program to branch out from a Toronto hospital to London Health Sciences Centre in London, Ontario.  They completed their clinical education at with Vanessa Burkoski, VP Professional Practice & Chief Nursing Executive and Jennifer Yoon, Director, Nursing Professional and Scholarly Practice and are currently working at the hospital.

“I see the Nurse Practitioner in Anesthesia Care as being an excellent way of combing all of my prior professional experience,” said Charlotte McCallum, Nurse Practitioner – Adult; Master of Nursing; Certified Nurse in Nephrology Nursing (Canada) at London Health Sciences Centre.“The program encompasses the full spectrum of clinical anesthesia services and enables nurse practitioners to make a difference in the experience of peri-operative services.”

Kevin Zizzo completed his clinical hours at the Hospital for Sick Children under the supervision of Pam Hubley, Chief, Professional Practice & Nursing and assistant professor at Bloomberg Nursing.  The placement was especially pivotal as Hubley had created the education program  for the NP- A in 2009.

“Pursuing the Nurse Practitioner in Anesthesia Care program vastly expanded my knowledge, clinical skills, and ability to care for patients beyond my initial nurse practitioner training,” said Kevin Zizzo, BScN, MN, RN(EC), NP-Paediatric. “The program has given me the opportunity to be a leader in this evolving specialty, and has significantly impacted my career.”

These graduates are poised to make significant contributions to health care through their speciality in the managing anesthesia care including preoperative, peri-operative, post-operative and ambulatory care.


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