UND’s Buettner is national anesthesia program director of the year

Recognition will be bestowed on Sept. 23 at the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Annual Congress meeting in Boston

Kevin Buettner

Kevin Buettner (center), director of UND’s Nurse Anesthesia Program, will be recognized as the national program director of the year on Sept. 23, at the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Annual Congress meeting in Boston. He is joined in the photo by fellow program faculty, Jamie Sperle and Amber Johnson. Photo by Tyler Ingham/UND Today.

It isn’t often that Kevin Buettner is at a loss for words.

When he received an unexpected call from the CEO of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists notifying him that he had been named national Program Director of the Year, he was speechless.

He had no idea that students and faculty in the nurse anesthesia program had nominated him for the award.

“I didn’t know what to say. That doesn’t happen very often,” said Buettner, program director for UND’s Nurse Anesthesia Program. “I was honored and humbled. I think it speaks to the excellence of the faculty and staff at the College.”

The feeling is mutual.

“Dr. Buettner makes the most profound impact through his commitment and dedication to students,” said nurse anesthesia students Levi La Porte and Leah Davis in a joint nomination letter. “[He] is always willing to share his experience and knowledge. He provides both moral support and encouragement to help shape his students into the most well-rounded practitioners that we can be.”

Kevin Buettner

Kevin Buettner

“This is a well-deserved recognition for Kevin,” said Gayle Roux, dean of the College of Nursing & Professional Development. “The Nurse Anesthesia program graduates have touched the lives of thousands of patients in North Dakota and beyond. The program has the highest standards for safety and quality. We are very privileged to have Dr. Buettner as the program director.”

“Kevin is an incredibly dedicated professor and mentor,” said Amber Johnson, clinical instructor and assistant program director. “He has a unique vision and strives to make the program better for students, faculty and profession as a whole. His passion has influenced people in the state and across the nation.”

Buettner will receive his national recognition on Sept. 23, at the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists Annual Congress meeting in Boston.

Buettner, who was recently appointed by Gov. Doug Burgum to serve on the North Dakota Board of Nursing, is active across the state and nation.

“Kevin has recognized and incorporated health care issues such as underserved populations, rural health care and legislative issues into the program,” said Jamie Sperle, clinical associate professor of nurse anesthesia. “He sees the importance of these issues.” He added that Buettner is highly involved in professional and state organizations, including the North Dakota Association of Nurse Anesthetists as a board member and former president.

“Even after his terms ended, the Board continues to seek advice and guidance from Kevin,” Sperle said.

Art of anesthesia

UND’s nurse anesthesia program, which recently celebrated its 30th anniversary, is the only one in North Dakota and one of just 120 in the nation. It prepares registered nurses to be Certified Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs), who administer anesthesia to surgical patients.

The 28-month master’s program is transitioning to a doctoral program under Buettner’s leadership in response to national standards. UND began admitting students to the 36-month program this fall.

Learning to be a nurse anesthetist takes time, and Buettner said students will be even better prepared once the doctoral program is implemented.

“There is an art and science to nurse anesthesia,” said Buettner. “I really enjoy providing anesthesia care to patients and trying to anticipate how different patients will respond. It’s one of the most challenging things to teach students. That’s why the program is the length it is. It takes time to learn. Our goal is to produce graduates who provide excellent care.”

Buettner earned bachelor’s degrees from UND in aeronautics and nursing, then practiced as a nurse, mostly in emergency and critical care, before entering and graduating from the UND nurse anesthesia program. While practicing as a nurse anesthetist and serving as a faculty member in the program, he earned his doctorate in teaching and learning, also from UND. He was named program director in 2013, and continues to practice nurse anesthesia at Altru.

“I love being a nurse anesthetist,” Buettner said. “We get to work in lots of different settings to provide safe anesthesia care for people when they are at their most vulnerable. My career has allowed me to feel I’ve made a positive difference.”