Helen Lamb

The American Association of Nurse Anesthetists is among the certified organizations of nurse anesthetists in America. One of its founders was Helen Lamb, a leader and icon in the practice of administration of anesthesia. In view of this, learning brief information about Helen Lamb is important because it was during her time when the practice was developed and was improved through her help.

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Helen Lamb was an expert pioneer in the practice of nurse anesthetists. In the history of nurse anesthetists in America, her name will always come in the way of the excellent contributions that she had established in the practice. As indicated by Martin Sheridan, from Albany Medical Center Online,

Helen Lamb was a visionary who recognized the need to establish practice and education standards for nurse anesthetists and to advance high-quality patient care,”

Following is a brief biography of Helen Lamb, how she excelled in her profession and how she had made an impact in the profession of nurse anesthesia, including the contributions that she bestowed to the practice.


On September 28, 1899, the future leader and icon of anestheologists, Helen Lamb, was born in the town of Butler, Missouri. Helen took several studies in the field of health care service, specifically as a nurse, to broaden her knowledge and skills in medical service. The Christian Church Hospital in Kansas City has been a witness to Helen’s training in nursing. At the age of 22, Helen successfully finished here nursing studies and gained the license to practice her nursing endeavor.

After acquiring her license to practice as a nurse, Helen Lamb involved herself in furthering her capabilities to serve as a nurse. She attended a number of trainings in which the most interesting to her perhaps was the one that makes her a nurse anesthetist. She attended a 6-month training in Lakeside Hospital School of Anesthesia. Helen stayed in the Lakeside Hospital School even after she had already completed her training to perform her practice there as a nurse and as a nurse anesthetist.

Lamb was able to improved and master the art of nursing and anesthetist under the leadership of Dr. Evarts A. Graham who employed her as his personal nursing assistant at Barnes Hospital in St. Louis. For 20 years, Lamb practiced being a nurse anesthetist to Graham’s patients. Being already an expert in her field as a nurse anesthetist, Lamb was elected as the director of a school of anesthesia that the Barnes Hospital had established.

As a director of the Barnes School of Anesthesia, Lamb introduced the expansion of the 4-month training program into a 2-year graduate degree program. The school had been successful in producing skilled students who gained high respect due to the high standard of education that Lamb implemented in the school.

Aside from the contributions of Helen Lamb in the Barnes School of Anesthesia, she was also involved in the development of training standards for the practice of nursing anesthetist. This happened particularly during the time that advancements were developed in health care service mostly in surgery and anesthesiology. Lamb was among the organizers and promoters of the National Association of Nurse Anesthetists (NANA) that was later renamed as the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA). With this organization, Lamb helped in setting standards on the practice of nurse anesthetists. Another organization, Missouri of Nurse Anesthetists, was fortunate to have Lamb’s governance.

During her years in promoting better health care service to people with her medical missions, Lamb had been similarly active and furthered her other skills in other medical practices. Two of which are pharmacology and physiology where the related practice of anesthetist had also been a part of her study. Washington University School of Medicine lists some of the following achievements of Helen Lamb.

In 1929 Barnes Hospital opened a School of Anesthesia with Helen Lamb as its director, a position she held until her retirement in 1952.

Lamb was also a founding member of the Missouri Association of Nurse Anesthetists in 1935 and served as its first president

She was one of the first nurse anesthetists in the United States to use endotracheal anesthesia.

In 1976 Lamb received the AANA’s for Outstanding Accomplishment

Lamb experienced sickness, particularly pneumonia, during the last few years of her life. Her husband assumed that this was caused by her job of administering anesthesia where she was always exposed to nitrous and oxygen gases. Lamb died on September 3, 1979.

Helen Lamb had been a dedicated nurse anesthetist. From the time she finished her nursing degree, she already dedicated public service to health care as well as to teaching its practice. Her friend, Joyce Kelly, another nurse anesthetist, summed her life as “one whose life was giving anesthesia and teaching”(Schwartz, 2003). Hence, she was honored by many of her health care colleagues, as well as her students, for the contributions that she brought in the study and practice of anesthesiology.

After Lamb’s death, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetist established the Helen Lamb Outstanding Educator Award in honor of Lamb’s achievements and contributions to nurse anesthesia.

Impact Analysis

Helen Lamb had made an impact in the practice of nurse anesthesia because of the prominent contributions that she brought to the practice. Her input to both the practice and study of nurse anesthesia cannot be undermined because it was from her hard work, dedication, and commitment that made nurse anesthesia a high standard form of study in the field of medical service. There even came a time when Helen Lamb protected the high standard that was already established for the practice. This happened when she resisted the emergence of quick nurse anesthetist training programs to support the shortage of nurse anesthetists during the war. To Lamb, this may result to a degradation of the high standard that the AANA had established to the practice of nurse anesthesia. Lee C. Fosburgh indicates this in his article “Imaginig Time,” stating that Ms. Lamb’s reluctance to support emergent training programs in anesthesia was from a general fear that the increase in programs would undermine the hard-won progress made by the AANA’s educational program.

The prominent influences and impact that Helen Lamb had contributed to the practice of nurse anesthesia can be said to come from following works and achievements that she attained.

More than 20 years of being the personal nurse anesthetist of Dr. Evarts A. Graham at Barnes Hospital

23 years of being the director of the Barnes Hospital School of Anesthesia

Her effort in studying the possibility of the of nurse anesthesia into a , which eventually succeeded to be implemented in 1963.

The high standards that she established for the practice of nurse anesthesia.

The graduates of the of nurse anesthesia received respect and got a strong national demand from hospitals due to the high quality training that they underwent within 2 years. This was all because of the contributions of Helen Lamb to the practice of nurse anesthesia.

Lamb, together with the National Association of Nurse Anesthetists (now known as the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists) contributed in the establishment of standards of nurse anesthesia.

Aside from the AANA, Lamb was also among the founder of Missouri Association of nurse anesthetists, another organization for the practice of anesthesia.

Lamb was the first anesthetist in America to use endotracheal anesthesia. (Washington University School of Medicine, 2004).

Lamb received the Agatha Hodgins Award from AANA for her outstanding achievements in the practice of nurse anesthesia.

Technically, Lamb had committed a great part of her life in the practice of nurse anesthesia. And, with all the achievements that she attained, influencing and having a great impact to the practice is not questionable. In fact, she had contributed a lot of work to provide a high standard to the practice. From her contributions, nurse anesthesia had gained respect in the field of health care.


Helen Lamb. http://beckerexhibits.wustl.edu/mowihsp/bios/lamb.htm

Albany Med’s Martin-Sheridan Recognized for Contributions to Education of Nurse Anesthetists


Fosburgh, L.C. 1995. Imagining in Time.

Retrieved on Sept. 05, 2005, from Online. Web site: http://www.aana.com/archives/imagine/1995/10imagine95.asp

Thomas, E. (2004). What is a Nurse Anesthetist?

Retrieved on Sept. 05, 2005, from Online.

Web site: http://www.anesthesia-nursing.com/wina2.html