Ep 222: The Experience of a WWII Nurse Anesthetist & the Lessons Learned


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

On This Episode:

When you look back over the history of nurse anesthesia, the most forgotten group of nurses might have been those that served the country during World War II. It took nearly a half-century to tell their story but thanks to Carolyn Nicholson, BSN, RN, BC the legacy of that group of incredible nurses is being carried on today. We’ll look back at the war and the role of nurse anesthetists by telling the story of Adeline Simonson, whose experience is very much like all the brave individuals serving on the front lines. 

For those that don’t know Carolyn Nicholson yet, she started the nurse anesthesia program at the University of Cincinnati in 1970 and stayed on staff there for more than 40 years. Her interest in this time period began when she started reading books about the war. What she found was when the nurses returned after WWII, no one was interested in their story so it went undocumented. And many of those women didn’t want to talk about it either. It took nearly 50 years before they were given recognition for their contributions.

In her research, she came across a nurse by the name of Adeline Simonson and that’s who she’s focused much of her work on. Her story is one that can be told of just about any nurse that served in the war and Carolyn we’ll share it with us on this episode. Plus, we’ll talk about how it changed anesthesia moving forward.

Here are some of the things you’ll learn on this show:

  • Why she got interested in this topic and what she learned about that time period. [3:45]
  • How she discovered Adeline and what she learned about her going overseas. [5:02]
  • The training they received before leaving. [8:39]
  • What agents were they using at that time? [13:02]
  • How they dealt with anesthesia shortages and improved upon them. [16:49]
  • Details on the horrible conditions that nurses had to endure. [20:34]
  • The boom in anesthesia that happened following the war. [27:15]
  • Carolyn’s experience meeting Adeline’s family. [28:39]
  • Carolyn’s final thoughts on the topic. [34:52]

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


There was no special designation in the table of organization in the Army for nurse anesthetists. (Nurses) were expected to accept any assignment given.

Carolyn Nicholson





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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.