Excellence in Nursing – Advanced Practitioner: Brett Fadgen

Network CRNA, University of Pittsburgh Physicians


Brett Fadgen goes to every shift with the goal of bringing awareness to the impact unconscious bias has on those living with disabilities.

Born without a fully formed right arm because of a congenital defect, Fadgen is part of a team of nurse anesthetists credentialed to work at all UPMC hospitals and surgery centers in Allegheny County with opportunities to support UPMC facilities outside of Allegheny County.

“The approach for me to do anything — whether it be putting in an IV or a central line or placing a breathing tube in a windpipe — is not the standard process that health care has adopted,” says Fadgen, whose arm ends just below the elbow. “I had to think outside the box and create a method that was safe for patients.”

Fadgen started his career as a first responder, volunteering at the Elfinwild Volunteer Fire Company in Shaler, eventually becoming a paramedic. He later joined STAT MedEvac as a flight nurse, which inspired him to pursue a career as a nurse anesthetist.

At every step, Fadgen had to prove his capability. “I would put myself into situations to see, one, if I could do it, and two, how I fared amongst other people without a physical disability,” says Fadgen, who still volunteers with the fire company where he started 28 years ago and as a pre-hospital registered nurse with Ross/Westview EMSA and Shaler Hampton EMS. “I wasn’t the slowest, I wasn’t the fastest, but I was confident and capable.”

Those challenging situations intensified when Fadgen pursued a master of science in nursing degree in nursing anesthesia, and he perfected his modifications and adaptive devices at Pitt School of Nursing Anesthesia simulation lab until he was able to demonstrate their success for faculty and clinicians. He’s also worked closely with Pitt’s WISER Institute, which offers training to health care simulation professionals from around the world, to refine and test his skills.

Fadgen knows of no other nurse anesthetist with his specific disability. With every obstacle he’s overcome, he’s aimed to show both his patients and peers how having a disability does not define anyone. “I want to tell people all over the world that if you put your mind to it — whether you have a physical disability or an invisible disability — anything can be possible.”

Categories: Excellence in Nursing