Ep 154: Anne Penland’s Story – Nursing on the Frontlines of World War I and Early 20th Century Medicine

You won’t find Anne Penland’s name mentioned very often in the early history books about nursing, but this North Carolina nurse anesthetist served our country in some of the toughest environments. Our historical series continues with a spotlight on Penland and all of the incredible detail she provided on the war and early 20th-century anesthesia thanks to a well-written diary. We’re joined by our resident historians, Nancy Bruton-Maree, CRNA, and Sandy Ouellette, CRNA, to learn more about this incredible person.

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

On This Episode:

It’s time for another historical episode of the podcast and we’re excited to tell you about Anne Penland, an incredible nurse that served on the frontlines of World War I.

We’ve learned a lot already about many of the important people that helped shape anesthesia near the beginning of the 20th century, and Penland falls right into that category. She grew up in North Carolina before volunteering to serve in Europe during the first World War, and through her meticulous diary, we’re able to better comprehend the type of person she was and what being a nurse anesthetist during those early years was truly like.

We’ve asked Nancy Bruton-Maree, CRNA, and Sandy Ouellette, CRNA, to join the show again to tell her story, and they have so much insight to share once again.

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

  • Why she’s such an important figure in nursing
  • Her early life and childhood
  • Volunteering to serve on the front lines of World War I and the diary she wrote
  • What work was like as a nurse anesthetist during the war
  • Many of the things we learned from her diary – good and bad
  • Did she know Agatha Hodgins when they both served in the war?
  • What happened with her life and career after the war.
  • How much healthcare and nursing has improved and evolved since her time.

We also wanted to mention that we’ve gotten so much great feedback about this historical series and we thank you for that. If you ever want to connect with Sandy or Nancy to ask them a question or request a subject for the podcast, you can email them at nbmaree@gmail.com and souellette515@gmail.com.

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.

[2:57] – Great feedback on the historical series

[4:30] – Why is Penland so important?

[5:45] – Early life

[8:38] – Her time in Europe during WWI

[13:35] – Working as a nurse anesthetist during the war

[16:10] – Lessons learned from her diary

[20:48] – Happy moments from the diary

[22:48] – Serving with Agatha Hodgins

[26:08] – Recognition for her service

[29:42] – After the war

[34:26] – Ceremony in 2017

[41:54] – From the military to civilian healthcare

[44:16] – So much happening in the world at the same time

[47:51] – Building on the past

[53:01] – Where to get additional information


“She’s an unsung hero.”

– Beyond the Mask

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