John M. O'Donnell

Professor and Chair
Director, Nurse Anesthesia Program
Associate Director, WISER
Nurse Anesthesia


Dr. John O'Donnell is professor and chair of the Department of Nurse Anesthesia and director of the Nurse Anesthesia Program. He earned his BSN from Carlow College (1983), and attended the University of Pittsburgh for his MSN (anesthesia) in 1991 and his doctorate in public health in 2009 with a focus in epidemiology. Dr. O’Donnell is the associate director at the Winter Institute for Simulation Education (WISER), co-chairs the WISER Research Committee, and served on the National Anesthesia Patient Safety Foundation Board of Directors from 2003 to 2015. 

Dr. O’Donnell has received numerous honors and awards, including the Pitt Chancellor’s Distinguished Teaching Award (2011), Pittsburgh Magazine’s Nurse Educator of the Year (2017), Cameos of Caring Nurse Educator Award (2010), and the AANA National Program Director of the Year (2006). He was the lead author of the 2009 AHA Structured and Supported Debriefing Course and developed the GAS Debriefing Tool; this debriefing method was adopted in the AHA Core Curriculum for ACLS and PALS.  

As part of his international work, Dr. O’Donnell co-authored the iSIM (Improving Simulation Instructional Methods) course that has been offered in more than 20 nations and has been translated into multiple languages. He has been PI of multiple extramural grants, having received more than $3 million in total funding during his career to date. Dr. O’Donnell was the co-PI of a Coulter Foundation Innovations Grant titled “BodyExplorer: An Augmented Reality Simulation System” and recently received the University of Pittsburgh Chancellor’s Innovation Award to assist with moving this technology toward commercialization. As part of this effort, Dr. O’Donnell is a founding member of the LUMIS Corp. and serves a senior consultant for the new company. 

Additionally, Dr. O’Donnell works as a private consultant in the areas of simulation accreditation, effective use of educational technology, human simulation educational methods, patient safety, and nurse anesthesia accreditation.

Research interests:

  • Patient safety and nurse anesthesia practice
  • Simulation educational methodology
  • Simulation Best Practices
  • The translational science of simulation
  • Debriefing and debriefing evaluation
  • Clinical preceptor development
  • Epidemiology

Clinical Emphasis

Dr. O’Donnell is responsible for all University of Pittsburgh Nurse Anesthesia Program clinical evaluation and oversight and works to ensure compliance with all accreditation requirements for the more than 100 MSN and DNP students at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. O’Donnell has practiced in a variety of setting since 1991 including the military, locum tenens, UPMC Presbyterian, and Magee-Womens Hospital of UPMC. He currently maintains credentials at UPMC Presbyterian.


Dr. O’Donnell continues to teach extensively at the BSN, MSN, DNP, and PhD levels in the Nurse Anesthesia program at the University of Pittsburgh. Dr. O’Donnell has been honored for his teaching in both the classroom and simulation settings. He is a member of the School of Nursing Center for the Scholarship of Teaching and Learning and the chair of the Simulation Taskforce, which is looking at instilling best practices across the Pitt Nursing Curriculum.

Dr. O’Donnell is a highly sought after speaker on the regional, national and international levels with topics that include accreditation, patient safety, used of educational technology, simulation research, debriefing, clinical precepting, assessment in simulation, deliberate practice, and mastery learning. He was honored as a visiting professor at Taipei Medical University in 2016 and helped to open the new Center for Medical Education and Simulation (CEMS). He also collaborates closely with faculty at the Peking Union Medical Center (PUMC, Beijing China) and the Wuhan School of Medicine and Wuhan Hope School of Nursing (Wuhan China). 

Courses Taught/Guest Lecturer in the Nurse Anesthesia Program:

  • Basic Principles of Anesthesia
  • Basic Principles of Anesthesia Lab
  • Chemistry and Physics in Anesthesia
  • Applied Pharmacology
  • Team Training in Patient Safety
  • Advanced Principles of Anesthesia 1,2,3
  • CRNA Role


A retired United States Army Nurse Corps Officer, Dr. O’Donnell volunteers with a variety of local, regional, and national organizations, including the WISER Research Committee, the Provost’s Advisory Committee for Instructional Excellence (ACIE), the Provost’s LMS Evaluation Committee, the State Board of Nursing, the Council on Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs (Chair Review)