Jan’s dedication to the profession and the AANA was legendary. "Jan was a dedicated professional whose expertise knew no bounds and who was committed to the mission of providing high-quality, compassionate care to all patients,” said former AANA Executive Director Jeffery Beutler, CRNA, MA. “She was acclaimed by many as a leader among leaders and a friend to all; her life and her accomplishments are a testimony to her personal beliefs and professional commitment."
Jan’s term as AANA President from 1999 - 2000 was marked with intense efforts and extraordinary progress for the profession of nurse anesthesia. On March 9, 2000, the Health Care Financing Administration (now known as the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services) announced that it would remove the federal requirement that nurse anesthetists must be supervised by physicians when administering anesthesia to Medicare patients. The final rule, published on Nov. 13, 2001, instituted a process whereby individual states can opt out of the supervision requirement.
Among the other nurse anesthesia milestones that were reached during her term were the inclusion of nondiscrimination language in the Patient’s Bill of Rights; the inclusion of nondiscrimination language in antitrust legislation; becoming the first nursing organization to make Fortune magazine’s list of the most influential associations; and the establishment of the first National Nurse Anesthetists Week.
Stewart reflected on her term with humility and grace, calling attention to “CRNA heroes” in her farewell speech at the 2000 6th World Congress Annual Banquet. She spoke to those CRNAs who traveled to Washington, D.C. to lobby; those who educate our future anesthetists and “those who conduct their practice every day in the manner that gives nurse anesthesia the reputation for compassion, empathy, and safety that has proved the backbone of our profession,” she said. “It is because of the amazing degree of participation of our members that these accomplishments have come about. We are truly a remarkable and unique group, and that shows in the quantity and quality of our achievements. Will Rogers said, ‘We can’t all be heroes, because somebody has to sit on the curb and clap as they go by.’ From the bottom of my heart, I thank you for letting me sit on the curb this year and observe the parade of heroes go by from such a prestigious vantage point.”
Jan assumed a leadership role in her professional association at both the state and national level. As a member of the Washington State Association of Nurse Anesthetists (WANA), she served as an officer and board member from 1985 to 1994, as well as a committee member and chair on multiple WANA committees. As an active member of the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA), Jan served on the Board of Directors from 1995 to 1999 and as AANA President from 1999 to 2000.
She also served the AANA from 1991 through 2002 in the areas of State Government Relations, CRNA-PAC, Finance Strategic Planning, Federal Government Relations, Federal Services, Communications and Technology, Patient Safety and Excellence in Anesthesia Practice, AANA Foundation Board, AANA Travel Services Board and the AANA Insurance Services Board.
Jan believed in life-long learning and was a prolific lecturer. She was a nationally known speaker and spoke regularly on a broad range of anesthesia clinical topics. Jan Stewart is remembered as a caring friend and a wonderful mother.
Jan died unexpectedly of an accidental self-administered overdose of sufentanil. According to Terry Wicks, CRNA, MHS, former AANA President, her family could have kept this a secret but chose to "open the door to the realization that the anesthesia community had a very serious wellness and chemical dependency problem. This led to the realization that no one is immune from the risk, and when the risk is ignored, our whole profession loses."
This realization also became the impetus of the AANA wellness initiative in 2004, which was the beginning for today's AANA Health and Wellness program.