College of DuPage Alumna Spearheads Anesthesia Technologist Department at Boston Children’s Hospital

By: Angela Mennecke

COD Alumna Jamie DeCaro standing outside Boston Children's Hospital

Jamie DeCaro was working as an anesthesia technician at Boston Children’s Hospital for only a few weeks when The American Society of Anesthesia Technologists and Technicians (ASATT) changed their national certification requirements. Despite having a master’s degree in the healthcare field, as well as seven years of experience as a cardiac technician, DeCaro needed to enroll in an accredited degree program that would allow her to sit for the certification exam.

DeCaro began her search for a program that would allow her to continue working and raising her family. Then DeCaro discovered the Anesthesia Technology program at College of DuPage, the only online program in the nation. 

“I’m a firm believer that everything happens for a reason,” DeCaro said. “Here I was, a working mom, trying to juggle everything, and then I found out I needed to go back to school. I was instantly drawn to the program at COD because it offered me the opportunity to continue working in a hospital setting with hands-on patient care, while also getting a structured curriculum and personal support from instructors,” she said. “Even though I was living a plane ride away, I still received the same support and encouragement as if I was on-campus.”

Through the program, DeCaro earned her Associates of Science Degree in Anesthesia Technology in 2017, making her eligible to sit for the national exam through ASATT.

DeCaro is now the Chief Anesthesia Technologist at Boston Children’s and she remains the only nationally certified technologist in her institution. When she’s not in the operating room, she manages the daily workload of the other technicians and technologists, securing advanced educational and training opportunities.

“We have always had a well-run group of anesthesia technicians, but the group has struggled to grow with the rest of the allied health fields in the hospital,” she said. “We can train inexperienced people to become good technicians, but nothing can replicate the formalized education available through an ASATT-certified program. Certification encourages personal and professional growth in the field and also establishes a national standard of knowledge.”

Seeing the critical need for her team members to become nationally certified, DeCaro began spearheading an effort to get her staff enrolled in COD’s online program for the fall semester. Currently, seven of her technicians plan to enroll.

“COD’s program was so impactful for me, personally and professionally,” she said. “Having structured educational guidance gave me the skills so I could better perform my job and allowed me to advance in the field. Without COD, pathway to certification wouldn’t have been an option for me. There is no other educational experience in my life that compares.”

Through the program, DeCaro found a mentor in COD Anesthesia Technology Coordinator Kathy Cabai.

“Kathy taught me more than I ever thought I would learn about this field,” she said. “My passion for the field has grown stronger, and I’m advocating alongside her to inform as many medical professionals as I can to consider anesthesia technology as a career.”

Like most other healthcare fields, the demand for anesthesia techs is growing, Cabai said.

“Everyone starts off saying they want to be a nurse or a doctor, but that’s usually based off of a preconceived notion that those are the only options in the health care field,” she said. “I encourage my students to see what’s out there, especially in the role as a technologist. The training and experience you gain can be leveraged toward a higher-level career in the future.”

DeCaro and Cabai hope to forge a formal partnership between COD and Boston Children’s in the future with training opportunities for students, but for now, DeCaro is excited for her technicians to experience the program at COD that got her to where she is today.

“I flew in for graduation last year to see the campus up-close and to meet the professors that had such a positive impact on my life,” she said. “COD came to be at the exact right time in my life, and I’m so happy that my team will get the same experience I did.”

The Anesthesia Technology program at COD prepares students to be an integral member of the patient care team. Emphasis is placed on fundamentals and advanced clinical procedures to assist licensed providers in the acquisition, preparation and application of various types of equipment required for the delivery of anesthesia care.