Brandman News

Nursing faculty member’s dual roles have singular focus

February 11, 2016 by Brandman University
Faculty member Dr. Don Beissel, who earned his DNP from Brandman University, talks with students new to the program during the January immersion session in Irvine.

Faculty member Dr. Don Beissel, who earned his DNP from Brandman University, talks with students new to the program during the January immersion session in Irvine.

Like many biology and psychology students in college, Dr. Don Beissel fully expected to go into medicine, meaning he thought he would be a physician.

But after earning his bachelor’s degree, a gig as an emergency medical technician (EMT) helped him reframe his choice.

“Physicians would see patients for 5 or 10 minutes. Nurses were the ones who spent time developing relationships with people,” said Beissel, who returned to school at Anoka-Ramsey Community College, adding an associate degree and registered nurse licensing to the bachelor’s degree earned at the University of Minnesota-Morris. Even then, his career took a few more turns.

“Working in the ICU was my dream, until I got there,” said Beissel. He returned to school in 1998 to earn a Master of Science in nurse anesthesia from Saint Mary’s University. And then returned again in 2012, this time to Brandman University’s Marybelle and S. Paul Musco School of Nursing and Health Professions to be part of the school’s first large cohort of Doctor of Nursing Practice (DNP) students.

Beissel still works as a nurse anesthetist in Missouri but he’s added yet another career title to his list: assistant professor. He teaches students post masters to DNP students at Brandman, guiding new groups students into the world of research and data analysis.

What’s the difference between a nurse anesthetist and an anesthesiologist? Anesthesiologists are medical doctors who specialized in anesthesia. Nurse anesthetists (CRNA) are required to have a worked in critical care for at least a year, followed by special training in anesthesia leading to a master’s degree. Nurse anesthetists (half of whom are men, unlike the rest of nursing where 10 percent are men) often perform the same duties as anesthesiologists, although it can vary by state.
CRNAs are often the only option in rural areas. Don Beissel’s DNP project compared safety issues between the two professions for a type of pain management and found no differences.

The nursing school requires its faculty members to stay current by continuing to work in a clinical setting. Beissel’s work at a day surgery center in Joplin, Missouri, frees him to interact with students throughout the afternoon and evening. His students come from every time zone in the U.S. and sometimes other continents.

“What sets this program apart is the way we’ve structured our courses so the focus is on your (the DNP student’s) project from about day two. We have a very high success rate,” he said.

For Beissel, it’s still all about relationships. As an assistant professor, he gets to know students during the immersion sessions in Irvine and through their work online. He’s impressed by the diversity of students in Brandman’s program and sees it as a good sign for communities where it’s important to have someone who looks like them providing the care.

“As a nurse anesthetist, I have five minutes to convince people they can trust me,” he said.

And he clearly relishes the dual role of teacher and practitioner. “Being a nurse anesthetist is a constant application of anatomy, physiology and pharmacology to achieve the best outcome for the patient. If you know those three things, you can solve a lot of problems.

“If you enjoy your work, you’re not really working. Life is pretty good in that regard,” said Beissel.

Why a DNP rather than Ph.D.?

When Dr. Don Beissel decided to seek additional education, he had a choice between seeking a Ph.D. in nursing and a DNP. The DNP’s emphasis on “applying the knowledge of research in a clinical setting and shortening the gap between research and practice” were more appealing to him than straight research. These essentials for DNP graduates were first created in 2004 and updated in 2006 to reflect the call by the American Association of Colleges of Nursing for advanced practice registered nurses to attain doctorates rather than master’s degrees.

  • Scientific underpinnings for practice
  • Organizational and systems leadership for quality improvement and system thinking
  • Clinical scholarship and analytical methods for evidence-based practice
  • Technology and information for the improvement and transformation of patient-centered health care
  • Health care policy for advocacy in health care
  • Interprofessional collaboration for improving patient and population health outcomes • Clinical prevention and population health for improving the nation’s health
  • Advance nursing practice


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