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In Memoriam: Anna Mae Ericksen, RN

A 2010 inductee into WSNA's Nursing Hall of Fame, Anna Mae Ericksen started the "Mr. Yuk" program for poisoning prevention.

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Donna Pierce and Anna Mae Ericksen at the 2010 WSNA Hall of Fame gala awards dinner at Salty's on Alki restaurant on March 18, 2010.

Credit: Ben Tilden

Anna Mae Ericksen, RN, who was inducted into WSNA’s Nursing Hall of Fame in 2010, died March 5, 2016 at the age of 96.

At her induction ceremony, Anna Mae was described as one the finest examples of humility, professionalism, compassion, humanitarianism, and volunteerism. She inspired those around her to continue her legacy of excellence in nursing and life.

A graduate of Spokane’s Deaconess Hospital School of Nursing in 1943, Anna Mae spent several years working in the Army Nurse Corp before returning to Spokane in 1947. She worked for over 40 years at Deaconess Hospital, now called Deaconess Medical Center, becoming a well-known member of the Deaconess and Spokane community. She was active in the Inland Empire Nurses Association throughout her career, as well as participating in WSNA on the Membership Committee and Board of Directors.

Anna Mae began as a staff nurse in the Emergency Room at Deaconess Hospital and was head nurse from 1948 to 1957. From 1955 to 1957, she worked in collaboration with local physicians to establish the Spokane Poison Center at Deaconess which became part of the Emergency Department responsibilities and later became its own separate area, with dedicated staff, next to the Emergency Department.

Under Anna Mae’s leadership, the Mr. Yuk program started in 1975 in the greater Spokane area. The center provided education to thousands of pre-school children through adults about poison prevention, including measures to poison proof the home. Countless third, fourth and fifth grade students participated in the annual Mr. Yuk poster contest. Presentations were given to provide information about accidental poisonings. This became a national program. In the late 1970’s, the Spokane Rotary Club honored Anna Mae by presenting her with a personalized license plate reading “Mrs. Yuk”.

From 1957 to 1970 Anna Mae was the Supervisor of the Emergency, Outpatient Departments and Poison Information Center and in 1970 she became the Assistant Director of these departments and the Admitting Department was added to her responsibilities. Anna Mae was always passionate about finding and sharing ideas at the community level as well as state level for on-going improvement in nursing care.

In 1985 Anna Mae organized the first Rural Nurse conference and in 1989 founded the Rural Nurse Organization that provided education, networking and leadership experiences for nurses in rural areas. She was also involved in the Rural Outreach program that provided education to physicians, registered nurses and other health providers in rural communities. Through these programs, she positively impacted rural health needs in rural communities of eastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, northern Idaho and even western Montana.

Anna Mae was also a leader in Emergency Medical Care, helping to organize the Emergency Department Nurses Association in the late 60s and serving as a representative for the Pacific Northwest in the National organization. She was also the founder of the Inland Empire EDNA. During the 1970s, she held several national offices for EDNA including serving as president from 1975 to 1976. In 1975, she was invited to the White House by President Gerald Ford as one of 26 people to speak regarding Emergency Medical Services issues. In 1999, Anna Mae was the recipient of the Hall of Fame Award from the National Emergency Nurses Association.

Anna Mae served as a committee member from 1975 to 1993 on the East Regional Medical Services and Trauma Council. She also worked with outlying Fire Departments to develop training for EMTs and paramedics and was appointed to the Governor’s Emergency Medical Service Committee. While Supervisor of the Emergency Department, she convinced the School of Nursing to let her teach a one-week section on emergency care. That class was later extended to three weeks as part of the senior student nurse education.

At the time of her retirement in 1987, Anna Mae was the Director of the Regional Outreach Program, Director of the Spokane Poison Information Center and served as the Liaison with the Physicians. Even after retiring, she continued to be involved in all three of these roles.

Anna Mae was the recipient of the Clara Barton Honor Award from the Inland Northwest Chapter of the American Red Cross and the Ann Magnuson Award from the American Red Cross, the highest honor for volunteer nursing. In addition to receiving numerous awards and honors, both the Washington Emergency Nurses Association and Rural Nurses Organization now present an annual Anna Mae Ericksen award to recognize excellence in emergency nursing and rural nursing, respectively. Of course, Anna Mae was the first recipient of both awards.