CRNA Profiles: Alice Hunt

Alice Hunt was born in England in 1880 and received her nursing training at Union Hospital Training School in Fall River, Mass. After graduating in 1904, she worked as a nurse at surgeon Philemon Truesdale’s hospital in Fall River. Truesdale had seen anesthesia administered by nurses at the Mayo Clinic, and in 1908 when his physician anesthetist D. R. Ryder decided to focus on otolaryngology, Truesdale asked Hunt to become his anesthetist. Ryder taught her the technique of open drop ether; she then spent a week at the Mayo Clinic, followed by a trip to Providence, R.I., where she learned the administration of nitrous oxide-ether.1(p79)

In 1917 Hunt was asked to go to Peter Bent Brigham Hospital in Boston to replace nurse anesthetist Gertrude Gerrard who was overseas for the war. Here she trained both nurses and  medical interns in the administration of anesthesia and gained recognition for her skillful administration of nitrous oxide-oxygen anesthesia. After the war ended, Samuel Harvey, professor of surgery at Yale, heard of Hunt’s skill in the nitrous oxide-oxygen technique and asked Hunt to send him an anesthetist. Hunt herself accepted his offer, and she was appointed as instructor of anesthesia with university rank on March 1, 1922. She was promoted to assistant professor in 1930. Hunt also worked as an anesthetist at Grace-New Haven Community Hospital.

Hunt retired on June 30, 1948. To acknowledge her 26 years of service, the Board of Permanent Officers of the Yale University School of Medicine placed a tribute to her in their meeting minutes. It read in part1(pp101-2)

"Miss Hunt is truly a pioneer nurse anesthetist, largely self-taught by working with surgeons who had a natural prior interest in anesthesia. Without formal recognition, she developed a school of anesthesia here which attracted and trained a large number of competent nurse anesthetists. Because she was a student by nature Miss Hunt acquired a good working knowledge of the anesthesia literature, and was skillful in its practical application. Thus she was competent to teach nurses, medical students, and house officers alike.

"She was among the first practitioners of the art to adopt in succession such agents as nitrous oxide-oxygen with closed-circuit rebreathing, avertin, ethylene, and cyclopropane. Under her jurisdiction the flammable and explosive gases were employed here for about twenty years without a single disastrous explosive episode. 

"Under all conditions of stress, strain and fatigue Miss Hunt was ever a gentlewoman, with a supreme devotion to the welfare of every patient. During the exigencies of the recent war, Miss Hunt carried on for four years in her department almost single-handed—a responsibility and labor for which the school and hospital are indebted beyond words."

Hunt died in 1956 at age 76 after a long illness.

1. Thatcher VS. History of Anesthesia with Emphasis on the Nurse Specialist. Philadelphia: JB Lippincott;1953. 

 Hunt's Bibliography

Culter EC, Hunt AM. Postoperative pulmonary complications. Archives of Surgery. 1920;1(1):114-57. 
Hunt AM. The evolution of anaesthesia in twenty-five years. Trained Nurse and Hospital Review. 1935;46-50.
Hunt AM. A newer method of computing the individual dosage of avertin. Bulletin of the National Association of Nurse Anesthetists. 1935;3(1):18-23.
Hunt AM. Evipal soluble for the control of convulsions from novocaine poisoning. Yale Journal of Biology and Medicine. 1938;11(2):109-111.
Hunt AM. Evipal soluble for the control of convulsions from novocaine poisoning. Bulletin of  the National Association of Nurse Anesthetists. 1939;7(1):27-29.