Ep 189: Catherine Lawrence, First Nurse to Administer Anesthesia


On this look back through the history of nurse anesthesia, we’ll tell you the story of Catherine Lawrence. This Civil War nurse became the first to administer anesthesia during the Second Battle of Bull Run but she also accomplished a lot more during her life. Nancy Bruton-Maree, CRNA, and Sandy Ouellette, CRNA, will give us all the details and help us learn more about this important figure in nursing.

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

On This Episode:

When you think back on the history of nurse anesthesia, you have to travel back to the 19th century to find the person that first administered it.

Her name was Catherine Lawrence and we want to make her name more commonplace within our organization. She’s best known as the first nurse to administer anesthesia during the Second Battle of Bull Run in the American Civil War. Not only was she a nurse, she was also a teacher, missionary, and temperance lecturer.

To help us tell her story, we’ve invited our show historians, Nancy Bruton-Maree, CRNA, and Sandy Ouellette, CRNA

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

  • Her upbringing as the youngest of seven children and how she often got into trouble as a child.
  • The story of how she lost faith early in life.
  • The different work she did in her teens, including becoming a teacher at age 14.
  • How anesthesia was introduced to the Civil War
  • The resignation letter she gave to Dorothea Dix
  • What happened in the Battle of Bull Run
  • Following the Civil War, she helped raised orphans.
  • Her death and where she was laid to rest.
  • How Nancy and Sandy would summarize her life.

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.

[5:51] – Back in the studio with Sandy and Nancy

[7:24] – Introducing Catherine Lawrence

[10:09] – As a child

[13:00] – How she lost faith as a child

[14:38] – Began teach at 14

[18:11] – Enlisting in the Civil War

[23:19] – Her relationship with Dorothea Dix

[26:25] – After the Civil War

[32:09] – Summarizing her life

[35:26] – Her death

[36:25] – Final thoughts


To learn more about the Emma Kate fundraiser event:  https://halosofthestcroixvalley.com/ 


“(From a very early age, Catherine Lawrence really devoted her life to the relief of suffering of others.”

-Nancy Bruton-Maree, CRNA





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J. Cross CRNA
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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!
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I enjoy listening every morning. Great content and always a pleasure to learn something new.
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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.
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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!
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If you’re a CRNA or any medical professional, I highly recommend giving this podcast a listen. Hosts have a great rapport.