Ep 126: Gertrude Fife’s Lasting Impact on Education and the AANA

Agatha Hodgins earned notoriety as the founder of the AANA but a person right behind her often gets overlooked. That’s Gertrude Fife, the second president of the AANA, and she’s the next focus of our historical series. We look back on how she helped shape the organization and set the standards of education for CRNAs with the help of Nancy Bruton-Maree, CRNA, and Sandy Ouellette, CRNA.

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

On This Episode:

When we think back to the formation of the AANA, the first person that comes to mind is founder Agatha Hodgins, but her peer Gertrude Fife made a lasting impact on the organization and the profession.

Ms. Fife was elected president at the first convention in Milwaukee, making her the second president for the organization and she served from 1933-35. At the time, she stated that ‘the formation of the organization was for the purpose of elevating the standards of anesthesia.’

And she helped do just that. The push for educational standards laid the foundation for the accreditation, certification exam, and recertification that’s in place today. Even though you might not immediately recognize her name, Fife left a legacy that is still relevant today.

To help us tell her story, we’ve brought in our resident historians, Nancy Bruton-Maree, CRNA, and Sandy Ouellette, CRNA, who also served as AANA presidents. Their experience and perspective is always a joy to hear so we hope you enjoy this installment of our historical series.

So as you get started on the episode, keep an ear out for these topics:

  • Her early life and career.
  • How the National Association of Nurse Anesthetists was formed nearly 80 years ago.
  • The push to strengthen states and focus on education and strong organization early on.
  • Her skill as a promoter helped grow the organization five-fold in members and more than four-fold in treasury money.
  • The early push for a nurse anesthesia accreditation program and the standards that needed to be met.
  • The three membership categories that were introduced at the first convention.
  • What the $5 annual dues in 1933 would be equivalent to today.
  • The minimum standards for schools of anesthesia that were agreed upon at the first meeting.
  • The many other roles she held while also serving as president of the NANA.
  • Her many accomplishments as president.
  • The disagreement over state vs national registration and how she won out.

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

2:10 – Welcome Sandy and Nancy

5:22 – Early part of her life

6:49 – Contributions to clinical anesthesia

13:39 – Contributions to AANA

24:38 – Elected NANA president

27:52 – Real proponent of an accreditation program

34:15 – An organizer and promoter

36:27 – Membership categories

39:02 – What annual dues would be today based on inflation

40:55 – Settings standards for education

45:37 – Woman of many talents

47:46 – Dagmar Nelson Trial

45:37 – Disagreement between Hodgins and Fife

51:59 – First qualifying exam

54:54 – Other awards

56:45 – Her life’s work and its relevance today


“She was sort of a shadow of Agatha Hodgins, who’s known as the founder, but it was (Fife’s) educational push that strengthened this organization to the point that we now have 125 accredited programs and we have a national certification exam. And who would have ever thought that we would have recertification that started in 1978.”

-Nancy Bruton-Maree, CRNA

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