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Nurse Anesthetists

History

Reliable methods of putting a patient to sleep were first developed in the 1840s, when the discovery of ether anesthesia revolutionized surgery. Before that time, when surgery offered the only possible chance of saving a person's life, all that the surgeon could do was give alcohol or opium to deaden the pain. Similarly, mandrake, hemp, and herbane may have been given orally, or by inhalation, during childbirth.

The first nurse anesthetist was Sister Mary Bernard, who practiced in Pennsylvania in the 1870s. The first school of nurse anesthetists was founded in 1909 at St. Vincent Hospital in Portland, Oregon. Since then, many schools have been established, and the nurse anesthesia specialty was formally created on June 17, 1931, when the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists held its first meeting.

Contemporary anesthesiology is far more complicated and much more effective than in the early days when an ether- or chloroform-soaked cloth or sponge was held up to the patient's face. Today, a combination of several modern-day anesthetic agents is usually used to anesthetize the patient.

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