Wallena Gould, EdD, CRNA, FAAN

Founder & CEO 
Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia
Mentorship Program 

Hello Everyone,

Typically, on the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program Facebook page, I post pictures from those who recently was accepted into or graduated from a nurse anesthesia program, defended a dissertation defense or doctoral scholarly project, celebrating newly hired positions Chief CRNAs or Clinical Coordinators, honoring those who are in uniform for our country, and so many more successful endeavors.

But, today, I will share with you a story of something that happened with a nurse anesthesia student of color years ago that changed both of us as a result.

In 2008, I received a phone call from a graduating student whom I known from the time he applied to a prestigious nurse anesthesia program. This particular student was the only student of color in his cohort and he revealed to me that he was told he can graduate with his cohort but had to stay in clinical for a little longer afterwards. To make matters worse, his clinical rotation would be extended for three months. This once humbled man in almost tears told me he would first quit than to let that happen while his classmates take boards and able to work as newly credentialed Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists. I allowed him to continue to speak with his heart pouring out to me uninterrupted for almost an hour. It was sad as his spirit for continuing graduate nurse anesthesia education was almost shattered to pieces.

There was a long pause on the phone as I was trying to process this life-changing matter. So, I told him this almost verbatim. First, I asked if he invited his mother who had to travel extensively to the graduation? This student on the cusp of quitting the program told me he in fact invited his mother and had reservations to a restaurant afterwards of which he was prepared to cancel because of this devastating news.

Then, I told him, “Well, this graduation is not for you any way. It’s for your momma so she can go back to tell her neighbors and church members how proud she is of her son graduating from a nurse anesthesia program”. And, it included him making sure I sit next to his mother at the graduation ceremony to encourage him quietly and privately. I proceeded to tell him that I rather him continue to do the extended three months of anesthesia at the clinical site than start over in a new program with increased and mounting debt. Trust me, he was fighting back with me on the phone. But I was serious and finally said, I will come after work when he was done with clinical and sit in the library literally across from him so he can continue with studying CRNA boards.

He agreed, finally. Some of these studying days’ lead to the library on beautiful sun-filled Saturdays in the summer. Sitting across from him, I was working on the paperwork for submitting for non-profit status (501 c – 3 ) status for the Diversity in Nurse Anesthesia Mentorship Program and planning activities for the following year. So, we both had a lot of work ahead of us to do to progress in our future.

This proud Black man finished his obligatory and extended clinical rotation and scheduled his board exam. After passing it on the first attempt he called me first to let me know about the results. A long pause was on the phone. I guess we both knew what that meant, to be honest. So, I want to thank my dear CRNA colleague for making me a better person and to find my true calling. And, exceptionally proud how he managed to get through his darkest moment. Quite often, I share his experience with others as they find their way to the light.

This experience made into a better advocate for nurse anesthesia students who are in some sort of distress. I will never forget how another nurse anesthesia student from the South was not doing well in a pediatric anesthesia rotation. So, I enlisted a CRNA from a Philadelphia Children’s Hospital and another CRNA from California who taught pediatric anesthesia in a program to help this student go from almost failing to passing with no clinical deficiencies and strong academic success.

Thank God …I know what is worth fighting for in my life.


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