Anna Mae Ericksen: 1919-2016
Anna Mae “Annie” Ericksen was born in Moose Jaw, Saskatchewan, Canada on November 1, 1919, to Erick and Evelyn (Kyle) Ericksen. She was the eldest of six children. Her father worked for the Sperry Flour Company on East First Avenue and helped lay bricks for Spokane’s first sidewalks.
Annie graduated from Rogers High School in 1939, and in May 1940, she and her sister Modelle enrolled in the Deaconess Hospital School of Nursing. In October 1943, Annie was commissioned into the United States Army Nurse Corps as a 2nd Lieutenant and was stationed at Kelly Field in San Antonio, Texas. There, she helped care for many returning and wounded veterans. Due to health problems arising from rheumatic fever, Annie was transferred to Fort George Wright. She was promoted to lst Lieutenant and honorably discharged in 1946. She attributed her “no nonsense” style of both nursing care and leadership to her younger years in the U.S. Army.
Annie quickly returned to the nursing staff of her “beloved Deaconess,” working in the Admitting Department where all emergency cases from accidents were taken. Determining that the Admitting Department needed an Emergency Room, she approached the hospital board and was granted approval. Annie claimed and retrofitted a janitor’s supply closet on the first floor, which became the first “Emergency Room” at Deaconess Hospital. It was a much-needed service for the greater community. Annie did not think the Sheriff’s Office should be transporting victims to the hospital. She joined with other healthcare “influencers” and the first ambulance service in Spokane was launched.
From 1955 to 1957, as head nurse of the Emergency Department, Annie worked with local physicians to establish the Spokane Poison Center. Under Annie’s leadership, the Mr. Yuk Poison Center program began serving the Greater Spokane Area in 1975, educating thousands of school children, adults and seniors. This became a national program. In the late 1970s, the Spokane Rotary Club honored Annie by presenting her a personalized automobile license plate reading “Mrs. Yuk.”
From 1957 to 1970, Anna Mae was the Supervisor of the Deaconess Emergency Outpatient Department, as well as the Poison Information Center. In 1970, she became the Assistant Director of Nursing for these departments. She was always passionate about finding, sharing, and acting upon ideas for improving healthcare services, both at the community and the state level. Beginning in the late 1960s, Annie was a leader in organizing the Emergency Department Nurses Association. She was also the founder of the Inland Empire Emergency Department Nurses Association (EDNA). In 1975, she served as president of the national EDNA organization.
Annie was also on the Governor’s ad hoc committee on emergency medicine. In 1975, she was one of 26 people to speak at the White House regarding Emergency Medical Services issues. She also served as a committee member for 20 years on the East Regional Medical Services and Trauma Council and worked with outlying Fire Departments to develop training for EMTs and paramedics.
In 1984, Annie organized the first Rural Nurses Conference, and in 1989, she was a founding member of the Rural Nurses Organization. Serving communities in eastern Washington, northeastern Oregon, northern Idaho, and western Montana, the Rural Outreach program provides education to physicians, nurses, and other healthcare providers. Annie’s work with the Rural Nurses earned her the name “Mother Superior” around the halls of her beloved Deaconess.
Annie retired from Deaconess in 1987 after more than 40 years of faithful service to her community at large. Four years later, she was honored by the American Red Cross and was the recipient of the Ann Magnuson Award, which conveys the “highest honor” for Volunteer Nursing. The award was presented by Elizabeth Dole, president of the American Red Cross. In 1999, Annie received the Hall of Fame Award from the National Emergency Nurses Association. The award recognized her for the “enduring nature of the achievements and accomplishments that have value to Emergency Nursing beyond the recipient’s lifetime.” In 2010, Anna Mae Ericksen was inducted into the Washington State Nurses Hall of Fame. Annie passed away on March 5, 2016, at the age of 96.