Ep 167: In Search of the First Anesthetists

The history of the nurse anesthesia profession is a bit murky as records weren’t kept well through the years as medicine and healthcare progressed, but there are opinions on who the first anesthetist was. Today we’ll examine the most likely candidates with our historians Nancy Bruton-Maree, CRNA, and Sandy Ouellette, CRNA, and try to determine who can claim the title of the real first anesthetist.

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

On This Episode:

We always say that nurses were the first ones to give anesthesia and we’ve been doing it since the Civil War, but have you ever stopped to think about who was the first to actually administer it?

After listening to another podcast and looking through some of the history on the subject, we decided to explore it ourselves. Of course we couldn’t do that without inviting on Nancy Bruton-Maree, CRNA, and Sandy Ouellette, CRNA, who are the resident historians for the podcast. They’ve both researched the history of nurse anesthesia and know about the main characters that helped develop the practice.

On this episode, we’re going to explore the most common names that are associated with the first years of anesthesia and discuss who the AANA credits as being first. And we won’t let them go without sharing their opinion on the topic.

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

  • Sandy lists the books that do a great job of detailing the history of anesthesia.
  • Where do anesthetists get their historical information from?
  • The key figures in anesthesia history including Humphry Davy, Crawford Long, Horace Wells, William Morton, John Snow
  • Who the AANA views as the real first anesthetist?
  • The history of hospitals in America and who the anesthetists were that worked there.
  • What is disputed between the different anesthesia professionals?
  • How the name of the profession has changed through the years.
  • The person that Sandy would refer to as the first anesthetist.

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. 

3:00 – Background on this topic

6:36 – History books on anesthesia

10:21 – Historical information

15:08 – Humphry Davy

16:16 – Crawford Long  

17:51 – Horace Wells  

19:27 – William Morton

22:35 – James Simpson

23:06 – John Snow

28:39 – The real first anesthetist according to AANA

33:56 – Who was in the earliest American hospitals?  

38:08 – Disputes  

40:44 – The role nuns played

42:58 – The evolution of names for anesthetists

46:32 – Sandy’s opinion on first anesthetists

48:21 – Final thoughts


“You’re seeing the people that really started this. We have a chemist. We have a surgeon. We have a dentist.”

-Sandy Ouellette, CRNA





CRNA Personal Finance

What is Your CRNA Money Story?

Today we’re joined by Julie Genjac, Vice President and Managing Director of Applied Insights at Hartford Funds, to discuss the concept of a money story and how understanding it can transform your financial future.




Apple PodcastsSpotifyTuneIniHeartRadio



J. Cross CRNA
Read More
This podcast is very well put together. I love the hosts Sharon & Jeremy, they do a fantastic job at presenting topics as well as getting great speakers on the show! This is my morning commute podcast everyday! Thank you for all that you do!
Read More
I enjoy listening every morning. Great content and always a pleasure to learn something new.
Read More
I started listening to this podcast religiously early on in my CRNA journey, a year before applying to CRNA school. The content in this podcast was one of my most helpful resources for getting into my first choice school, Wake Forest! It has also been a huge motivator for getting involved with the AANA now and throughout my career. I highly recommend this podcast to every prospective CRNA I meet.
Read More
I appreciate hearing the latest and greatest in the world of Nurse Anesthesiology while also getting Class B credits. Just listen on your commute for a win/win experience. I love the perspectives from Jeremy and Sharon who both ask varied and insightful questions!
Read More
If you’re a CRNA or any medical professional, I highly recommend giving this podcast a listen. Hosts have a great rapport.