Ep 85: The Story of the First IFNA Researcher, Dr. Maura McAuliffe, CRNA, FAAN

Today we bring back Sandy Ouellette, CRNA, to provide us with a look back at an important time in the IFNA’s history. Soon after the organization was formed, a meeting with the World Health Organization led to Maura McAuliffe,CRNA, Ph.D, FAAN, being appointed the first official researcher. Find out how it all came about as we document what was learned about nurse anesthetists around the world over the past 30 years. 

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

On This Episode:

No one knows the history of our profession like former AANA president Sandy Ouellette, CRNA, so we asked her to come back on the show to teach us about a key decision early in the International Federation of Nurse Anethetists’ history.

This episode is part of our ongoing effort to document our profession and help tell the story of how many people contributed to getting us to where we are today.

So the focus for this show takes us back to the early 1990s. IFNA co-founders Hermi Löhnert, CNRA, and Ronald Caulk, CRNA, wanted to get their new organization on the big stage. So, they went to the World Health Organization to meet with chief nurse specialist at the time, who was excited to hear about nurse anesthetists around the world.

A question was posed to the IFNA about why the WHO would take nurses and make them technicians? At that point, Ronald Caulk, CRNA, responded that nurses are administering anesthesia across the globe, to which the WHO responded, ’Prove it.’

With that, the IFNA decided to document the existence of nurse anesthetists around the world by tracking their role, their education, and their recognition in the countries where they provide anesthesia. Dr. Maura McAuliffe, CRNA, FAAN, took over the role and began working in collaboration with the WHO in an international study.

This took many hours to execute and analyze because this happened before all of the technology we have today. So surveys were having to be developed, translated into many different languages, and had to be mailed internationally.

Ouellette shares the findings from these surveys during the show, including how many countries had nurses providing anesthesia at the time. Plus she shares a great perspective of what this has meant for the profession internationally and the impact IFNA has made through the years.

A look at some of the additional topics we cover on the show:

  • The most important findings from the survey first administered.
  • Why some European countries don’t use nurses in anesthesia.
  • The differences between nurse anesthestists around the world.
  • The future of the IFNA.

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

2:41 – A topic that came up on a recent podcast about nurse anesthetists.  

5:11 – What led to IFNA appointing an official researcher in the 90s?

6:34 – Maura McAuliffe, CRNA, Ph.D, FAAN, appointed as the INFA official researcher.

8:24 – Concerns for the IFNA leaders at the time.  

9:29 – Why was Dr. McAuliffe the right person for the job?

11:21 – What was found from the first phase of surveys?

14:56 – How many total nurse anesthetists are there? Do we know?

19:21 – Phase 2 findings

25:09 – Why do European countries avoid using nurses in anesthesia?

31:56 – Ouellette wrote a letter to the editor about this European article.

35:51 – The future of the IFNA.


“What happens around the world impacts us. That’s why it’s so important for us to be a strong leader in IFNA. I coined the phrase when I was president, ‘Moving ahead to be the best. Reaching behind to help the rest,’ because every time these countries look better, we look better.”

-Sandy Ouellette, CRNA

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