In 1980, after Fidel Castro’s visit to Jamaica, the Cuban Government offered assistance in the form of training and five (5) registered nurses were sent to Cuba. Dr. Hazel Chung-Knight, the then Senior Government Anaesthetist, expressed the opinion to Dr. John McHardy, Senior Medical Officer (MOH), that Jamaica had the expertise and resources to train nurse anaesthetists. Stimulated by this utterance, the local team sprang into action. The team which included the Advanced Nursing Education Unit (ANEU), the University Hospital of the West Indies (UHWI), the Ministry of Health (MOH), Mrs. Dorothy Denny, Dr. Hazel Chung-Knight, Dr. Beverley Grant-Lewis, were assisted by a Consultant, Sister Mary Arthur Schramm, CRNA, PhD (Physiology) and Nurse Educator. The JSNA was conceived and came into existence on September 11, 1981.
The school was declared open by the then Minister of Health, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, at a ceremony in the Henry Shaw Auditorium at the Kingston Public Hospital (KPH) on September 11, 1981. After this, there was a tour of the physical plant of the school which was situated in the Administrative Block at KPH.
The first six weeks of the programme were devoted to a common core with the Nurse Practitioner students. The students completed the pre-clinical core ranking among the six highest in the module. The core module was followed by a three month Basic Science Block, which includes physiology and pharmacology. The following 18 months were spent in the classroom and operating theatres in Kingston and the rural hospitals, where didactic and clinical training was undertaken. Many outside but related factors challenged the programme. A polo epidemic for six months limited surgery and thus clinical experience to emergencies only. Often shortage of resources, e.g. lab work, linen, and personnel caused the cancellation of surgical cases, whileshortage of teaching staff disrupted scheduled classes. After much planning and hard work by faculty and students, final exams followed by a six months internship period completed the training.
In September 1982, clinical affiliations were reviewed and in October a two months course in medical physiology was planned by Sister Mary Arthur Schramm for directors, tutors, other nurse anaesthetists and interested practitioners.After many petitions and meetings with the Ministry of Finance, the nursing faculty members were upgraded.
When the second class commenced in January 1983, the uncertainty of continuity of the Nurse Practitioner Programme and later the decision to begin classes in November, prevented the programme directors of JSNA from including the Nurse Anaesthetist students in the core block. Thus ended the affiliation between the Nurse Anaesthetist and the Nurse Practitioner Programmes.