CRNA Perspectives
  • An Interview with Dr. Lena Gould, EdD, CRNA, FAANA, FAAN after the Diversity CRNA Event in Pittsburgh

    By Jermaine Wright, BSN, RN, CCRN (Accepted into South College Nurse Anesthesia Program)  

    Recently, I had the opportunity to attend the first in-person Diversity CRNA Information Session & Airway Simulation Lab Workshop since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic. This weekend-long workshop, founded by the recipient of the AANA Agatha Hodgins Award for Outstanding Accomplishment, Dr. Wallena Gould, EdD, CRNA, FAANA, FAAN, is a three-day event where participants meet with nurse anesthesia program faculty and engage in simulation labs where CRNAs and SRNAs introduce participants to skills performed in and out of the operating room. Immediately after the event, I sat down with Dr. Gould and discussed issues of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) within the CRNA profession.  

    Dr. Gould, can you explain why Diversity CRNA Info Session & Airway Simulation Lab Workshop is important to you? 

    What we do very well is relationship building and the start of the professional socialization process for nurses of color before they apply to a nurse anesthesia program across the country. It is important to expose applicants to the nurse anesthesia community within the profession who look like them to show them what they can achieve. Also, our aim is to increase diversity when it comes to Fellows of the American Academy of Nursing (FAAN), PhD researchers, pain management fellows, the hiring of full-time nurse anesthesia faculty, and increase simulation experts. There are less than five Black FAANs, less than 10 Black simulation CRNA experts, and between 20-25 Black CRNAs that are full-time faculty out of 128 nurse anesthesia programs. 

    Can you explain what diversity is not? 

    There is a misconception that Diversity, Equity, & Inclusion (DEI) means lowering the standards to allow less qualified candidates to enter the profession.  That is not what DEI means. Also, diversity is not useful in infographics, PowerPoint presentations or one-hour webinars if there is no value in measured outcomes. Certainly, it is taking responsibility as a leader to speak on diversity initiatives and implement programmatic events intended to increase representation. Notably, DEI is about actions that move the needle to change the culture. DEI is about representation at all levels and in all areas of decision-making, including paid leadership roles for the profession. And, DEI engages the community and has the AANA President and leadership consistently addressing the issues facing all populations representing the CRNA community.  

    What was your motivation to be a contributing author in the Nurse Anesthesia Textbook? 

    In 2002 when I was a nurse anesthesia student, I would open my nurse anesthesia book by Nagelhout & Elisha, and there were no Black authors or photos of CRNAs of color. In May 2022, the 7th edition of the Nurse Anesthesia textbook by Nagelhout & Elisha is available for students across the country. I am the contributing author of the third chapter: “Patient Centered Care, Cultural Competence & Nurse Anesthesia Practice.” The chapter content discusses racism as a public health crisis, workforce diversity, Black maternal mortality, COVID-19’s impact on communities of color, and nurse anesthesia practice. For the first time, a photo of a Black male CRNA will be featured in the book, Dr. Fred Reed, DNP, CRNA. 

    What are some opportunities for AANA to assist with increasing DEI within the profession? 

    The AANA would need to make a commitment on relationship building with communities of color and address the intersectionality of microaggressions and racism within the profession. During the year, for Black History Month, Hispanic Heritage Month, observance of Ramadan or any other occasions that celebrate the cultures representing the profession, AANA needs to show their intentional public support on a consistent basis. 

    This conversation with Dr. Gould again demonstrates the importance and need for DEI, and the necessity of moving to specific action in advancing the goals of DEI in the profession. Diversity, Equity and Inclusion add value to the profession. Paraphrasing Dr. Gould, it’s time to stop talking about it, and proactively being about it in tangible, visible initiatives.