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In Memoriam: Anna Mae Ericksen, RN


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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.