May 3, 2012 in Washington Voices

Pioneering nurse honored by Deaconess for achievements

By The Spokesman-Review
 

Ericksen
(Full-size photo)

A woman who helped expand the emergency nursing program at Deaconess Medical Center has been honored for her lifetime of achievement.

Anna Mae Ericksen, 93, is a legend within the halls of Deaconess. A member of the class of 1939 at Rogers High School, she graduated from the Deaconess Nursing School in 1943 and joined the Army during World War II. She was stationed in San Antonio during the war serving as an emergency nurse.

When she returned to Spokane in 1948, she went to work in the emergency room at the hospital, which was much smaller than it is today.

“There was one bed with a window that looked out onto Fourth Avenue,” she said.

Roger Casey, the president of the Washington State Council of Emergency Room Nurses said he read a story in The Spokesman-Review after Deaconess had celebrated Ericksen’s 90th birthday. He thought it would be nice for his organization to honor her in some way.

“She is just like a trailblazer,” Casey said, but when the time came to figure out what award to present her with, he found a problem.

“All the awards we have, you’ve gotten,” Casey told Ericksen.

The organization created the lifetime achievement award for Ericksen and presented it to her Friday in the Health Education Center at Deaconess. Many of her former colleagues and family members were in attendance at the celebration.

“Anna Mae is just absolutely our hero,” said Linda Seger, a past president of the association.

During her long career as an emergency nurse, Ericksen helped found the national Emergency Room Nurses Association and the Inland Empire Chapter of that organization. She founded the Rural Nurse Organization. She held a 60-year membership with the American Red Cross. She created the Spokane Poison Center and helped create the Washington Poison Center system.

She has received many awards for her contributions to nursing including certificates from Washington state Govs. Dan Evans, Dixy Lee Ray and John Spellman. The local chapter of the Red Cross named an annual award for Ericksen for exemplary Red Cross service delivery in outlying areas.

“It makes me feel very humble,” Ericksen said of her latest award. “I feel so blessed to be able to do the things I’ve been able to do.”

She said when she thinks back on her years at Deaconess, she is grateful for the staff, the hospital administration and the board of directors who allowed her to do what she did. She remembers asking for more beds and another room. She wasn’t afraid to ask for what the department needed to meet the needs of her patients.

The association put together a video of Ericksen’s career for the celebration. It chronicled Ericksen’s many achievements over the years, including her work with the Mr. Yuk campaign, the Clara Barton Award from the Red Cross and a trip to the White House in 1976.

After the video, her friends, family and colleagues gave her a standing ovation.

Former doctors who couldn’t be at the celebration sent along letters of congratulations.

Among them was Dr. James Nania, who retired in 2009 as the head of emergency medicine at the hospital. He called her the “grand lady” of the hospital and “our founding mother.”

Casey invited audience members to share their memories of Ericksen.

Donna Pierce was a graduate of the school of nursing and is now retired. She remembered working in the Spokane Poison Center in its early days. Ericksen came up with a plan for a poster contest with elementary school students and met with Spokane Public Schools officials to make that happen. She found billboard companies who would donate billboards to the cause.

“When she wanted something, it happened,” Pierce said.

Casey presented Ericksen with a clock. Family members presented her with flowers.

“It’s rewarding that people remember,” Ericksen said.

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