To recognize the 125th anniversary of nurse anesthetist education and the role of nurse anesthetist at Mayo Clinic, Sharing Mayo Clinic will include a special series of posts throughout the coming year. These vignettes will describe how nurse anesthesia education has changed over time and will highlight influential Mayo Clinic nurse anesthetists. Those featured received their education at Mayo Clinic and went on to be instrumental in providing anesthesia education and make significant contributions to anesthesia practice.
Written by Darlene Bannon and Evadne Edwards
In every pioneering achievement, there are visionaries, those who theorize and dream beyond the safe haven of the present. However, the visionary’s dreams would not be realized if not for the activist: one whose thoughts become action, who is flexible and accommodating, and who possess the drive to achieve and influence.
Edith Graham Mayo, Mayo’s first nurse anesthetist, was both a visionary and an activist.
Edith has primarily been remembered as the wife of Dr. Charles Mayo, one of Mayo Clinic’s founders. Historically, her professional life as an anesthetist has received little mention. Edith Graham was Saint Marys Hospital’s first trained nurse, anesthetist and nurse educator. She was an integral part of the visionary team that founded what we know today as Mayo Clinic.
Her abilities as a nurse, anesthetist and educator helped reduce hospital mortality in an era where poor anesthesia care was blamed for many deaths. This in turn helped change the public’s perception from “the hospital” … as a place to die to “the hospital” … as a place to be healed, Helen Clapesattle writes in the book, The Doctors Mayo.
We can confidently say the Mayo Clinic’s success was in part due to the success of its first anesthetist. Edith Graham Mayo’s exemplary life can only inspire those who recognize the need for innovation, constant improvement, and activism within the profession of anesthesia, and our community.
Darlene Bannon is a certified registered nurse anesthetist at Mayo Clinic. Evadne Edwards is a certified registered nurse anesthetist who studied at the Mayo School of Health Sciences. Learn more about Nurse Anesthesia Education at Mayo.