Ep 83: Courage to Lead – Former AANA President Dennis Bless, APRN, MS, CRNA

The next episode in our presidential series brings us a conversation with Dennis Bless, APRN, MS, CRNA, who served as AANA president for 2013-14. His financial background provided the organization with a new perspective and that helped make significant changes that still live on today. We’ll hear about his experiences and talk with him about diversity, compensation, relationship-building, reallocation and more. 

Click the timestamps below to help you navigate through the many topics we discussed.

On This Episode:

The path Dennis Bless, APRN, MS, CRNA, took to this profession isn’t one you’d find many places.

He grew up on a farm in Iowa and the first job he took after school was an agricultural banker. This came during the farming crisis of the 1980s, which created a lot of stress. Add in the lack of earning potential and he began looking for a different career. That led him to seminary for one quarter before ultimately finding the nursing profession thanks to people close to him.

He attended the University of Minnesota and quickly realized that being a nurse anesthetist was in his future. Now he’s a staff CRNA at the university but he’s accomplished a lot in the time between, including serving as the AANA president from 2013-14. Sharon eventually became the president-elect after Dennis and they formed a very close relationship during that transition, which made this opportunity extra special.

He was gracious enough with his time to sit down with us for another episode of our presidential series, where we focus on past leaders that have helped shape the future of our profession. For Bless, his tenure wasn’t long ago but the accomplishments he had will last for many years.

Here are the key areas we’ll spend the most time talking with him about on this show:

•Rebuilding the relationship between the NBCRNA and AANA and the recertification summit that resulted.

•The campaign the ASA ran that put nurse anesthetists in a negative light and the resulting campaign that he helped create.

•Diversity within the profession. Bless ran with that as a priority for his presidency and he delivered. We’ll talk about that process and the Diversity and Inclusion Committee that you can find within the AANA now.

•His financial background gave him the vision to change the way money is reallocated as well as work on CEO compensation and evaluation.

Like all of the other former presidents we’ve had on the show, it’s such a pleasure to hear all about their experiences and the leadership lessons they learned along the way. And it’s always insightful to listen to the final message they choose to leave the young CRNAs that have a long career ahead.

Check it out at the top of the page and use the timestamps to help you navigate through the many topics we discussed.

[3:32] – Today we’re joined by Dennis Bless, CRNA. He shares his career background.

[9:32] – The ASA PR campaign that ran as he was taking office.

[13:07] – His role with helping rebuild the relationship between the NBCRNA and AANA

[15:43] – AANA also knew they had to be clear that the members were the focus.

[17:05] – Towards the end of his presidency, they held a recertification summit to bring all the important parties together.

[18:31] – The feeling they had when first hearing about the NBCRNA and testing.

[24:33] – There was also a diversity summit during his year. Some background on how that happened.

[29:19] – The work he did on CEO compensation and evaluation.

[31:56] – How they decided to reallocate money and established new by-laws.

[35:18] – What were the most valuable leadership lessons learned during his time as president

[36:47] – Dennis leaves this message for new CRNAs coming into the profession.

[38:12] – If there was any other profession he could chose, what would it be?


“I went back to the board and we relooked at the core values of the AANA, and we did add diversity as a core value so that we had the basis to move on the issue.”

-Dennis Bless, APRN, MS, CRNA

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