New doctorate prepares Nursing students for high-paid anesthesia careers

Sydney Peterson
YSU graduate Sydney Peterson, who worked two years in the medical ICU at St. Elizabeth Hospital, is among 20 students enrolled in the new Doctorate in Nursing Practice.

After earning a bachelor’s degree in Nursing from Youngstown State University in 2018, Sydney Peterson dove head first into her new profession.

She worked a year in the stroke/trauma/neuro unit at Summa Health in Akron, and spent the last two years in the medical ICU at St. Elizabeth Hospital in Youngstown – the last 12 months in the midst of the global COVID-19 pandemic.

“I’m looking forward to starting a new journey,” she said.

That journey for Peterson and 19 other students begins this month as YSU launches its latest doctoral program – the Doctorate in Nursing Practice in for nurse anesthesia students. The 36-month degree, in collaboration with the St. Elizabeth Health Center School of Nurse Anesthetists, prepares students to become Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, which consistently ranks as the highest paid career in the nursing field.

“I know these next three years will be extremely difficult,” said Peterson, who lives in Canfield, Ohio, “but I am looking forward to getting started and the growth and knowledge that is to come with starting this new program.”

The YSU Centofanti School of Nursing’s DNP is the fifth doctoral-level program at YSU, joining Educational Administration and Physical Therapy, and PhD programs in Health Sciences and Materials Science/Engineering.

The new doctorate is a replacement of the master’s degree program in Nurse Anesthesia started at YSU 20 years ago. The move to the doctorate at YSU is in response to a mandate by the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs that all certified registered nurse anesthetist programs transition to a doctoral degree by January 2022.

It’s easy to see why the career is so popular - the Bureau of Labor Statistics puts the average annual salary for a nurse anesthetists at $181,040 and projects that demand will grow by more than 30 percent over the next decade.

Valerie O’Dell, professor and director of the Graduate Nursing Program at YSU, said nurse anesthetists administer anesthesia in just about every medical setting, from traditional hospital surgical units to obstetrical delivery rooms, as well as U.S. military, public health and Veterans Affairs healthcare facilities. In addition, dentists, podiatrists, ophthalmologists, plastic surgeons and pain management specialist utilize nurse anesthetists.

Nurse anesthetists, she said, serve more than 50 million patients annually, are the sole anesthesia providers in nearly all rural hospitals and are the main provider of anesthesia to the men and women serving in U.S. Armed Forces. 

YSU graduate Elena Bocola-Mavar is also enrolled in the new DNP program.

“I like how the practice focuses on one patient, and seeing that patient through surgery, which in most cases is curative in nature,” said Elena Bocola-Mavar of Canfield, Ohio, who is enrolled in the new program.

Bocola-Mavar earned bachelor’s and master’s degrees in Biology from YSU in 2002 and enrolled in an accelerated nursing program at the University of Akron in 2017. She has worked as a research scientist at Northeast Ohio College of Medicine, part-time faculty at YSU and Eastern Gateway Community College, a trauma ICU nurse at Summa Health in Akron and just returned from Los Angeles and New York where she was helping with COVID-19 patients.

She said earning a nurse anesthetist certification will open employment opportunities and having a doctorate-level degree will allow her to teach and do research in the nursing discipline.

“Also, I love technology!” she added. “Technology that is used to assess, monitor and save human lives is singlehandedly the most fascinating development of this century.”

The YSU Centofanti School of Nursing also offers graduate programs in Adult-Gerontology Acute Care Nurse Practitioner, Family Nurse Practitioner and Nurse Education, as well as a school nurse licensure program. Questions, contact Nancy Wagner, director, at 330-941-1449 or