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Tribute to Judith C. Kelleher: (August 5, 1923–January 24, 2013)

Section Editor(s): Proehl, Jean A. RN, MN, CEN, CPEN, FAEN; Hoyt, K. Sue PhD, RN, FNP-BC, CEN, FAEN, FAANP, FAAN

Advanced Emergency Nursing Journal: April/June 2013 - Volume 35 - Issue 2 - p 93–94
doi: 10.1097/TME.0b013e31828fc514
From the Editors

Emergency Clinical Nurse Specialist, Proehl PRN, LLC, Cornish, NH

Emergency Nurse Practitioner, St. Mary Medical Center, Long Beach, CA

Disclosure: The editors report no conflicts of interest.

Judith C. Kelleher from Stockton, California, cofounder of the Emergency Nurses Association (ENA), died peacefully in January surrounded by her family.

Judy had a profound influence on emergency nurses and emergency care all over the world. She was a tireless visionary who saw the need to create a national association for emergency nurses more than four decades ago. She was articulate and adamant about the importance of nursing. She was assertive and not afraid to speak her mind. More than once, she made it known to our physician colleagues that nurses were just that—colleagues, not subservient handmaidens.

Figure 1

Figure 1

Judy was all about education for ENA members. She even returned to school later in life and obtained a post–master's nurse practitioner (NP) certificate and was therefore an early explorer of the realm of advanced practice nursing. She worked as an NP in primary care until she retired.

It was at Downey Community Hospital in Downey, CA, that Judy found her passion for emergency nursing (see Figure 1). She started the Emergency Department Nurses Association (EDNA) in California. Simultaneously, Anita Dorr, RN, FAEN, formed the Emergency Room Nurses Association in New York State. A nursing journal editor introduced them to each other, and they worked cross-country to create one organization with a focus on education and professional development for emergency nurses. The American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons (AAOS) was an early supporter of their efforts. When Judy and Anita announced an emergency nursing course at a May 1970 AAOS meeting, the EDNA was in utero. The official launch of the new organization occurred in October 1970, and the name EDNA prevailed because of Judy's insistence that we be recognized for what we are: a department, not a room. In 1985, the name was changed to ENA to reflect that emergency nurses worked in many settings, not just emergency departments.

Judy was president of EDNA in 1973–1974, and she remained an active and visible member into her 80s. Liz Taylor and Diane Schertz, friends from California, and her family were instrumental in helping her to travel to ENA meetings until her final Annual Meeting in 2008 in Minneapolis. While her body failed her, her mind retained its sharp acumen (see Figure 2).

Figure 2

Figure 2

Forty-one years after the founding of the EDNA, the American Nurses Association finally recognized emergency nursing as a specialty in August 2011. “The criteria for attaining specialty status are rigorous, so the recognition of emergency nursing as a specialty is a significant achievement,” said 2011 ANA President Karen Daley in a written statement. “ANA's role in this process is to protect patients by ensuring high quality in nursing practice and performance. This recognition tells the public that emergency nurses are dedicated to meeting high standards of care and patient safety” (Taylor, 2012).

Ann Marie Papa, 2011 ENA president, stated that “having ANA recognition acknowledges the unique aspects of emergency work” and strengthens emergency nurses' contributions in policy debates. Papa further stated, “It allows other health professionals and healthcare consumers to have a clear understanding of the range of emergency nursing practice and gives a better understanding of the roles emergency nurses fill” (Taylor, 2012). The ANA designation also highlights the need for emergency nurses to continue their education and advance their careers through leadership positions and advanced practice (Taylor, 2012). Judy was proud of this designation and lived to see it.

We were proud to call Judy a friend (see Figure 3). She was there to support and advise each of us before, during, and after our terms as ENA president. Her passing has left a hole in our lives, but her words and spirit live on in our hearts and minds. Her legacy lives on in the presence of the smart, assertive, and skilled nurses providing care to emergency patients around the world.

Figure 3

Figure 3

—Jean A. Proehl, RN, MN, CEN, CPEN, FAEN

Emergency Clinical Nurse Specialist

Proehl PRN, LLC

Cornish, NH


Emergency Nurse Practitioner

St. Mary Medical Center

Long Beach, CA

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Taylor J. (2012). Career guide for emergency nursing. Retrieved from
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