Over the Drape: Olive Berger and 'blue baby' Anesthesia, 1944-1954

Carmel, Rebekah, Nursing - Graduate School of Arts and Sciences, University of Virginia
Keeling, Arlene, School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Gibson, Mary, School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Maling, Barbara, School of Nursing, University of Virginia
Carlson, W, Department of Engineering and Society, University of Virginia

The purpose of this dissertation research was to identify, describe, and analyze the impact of technological developments on nurse anesthesia in the 1940s. Anesthesia practice was evaluated utilizing a case study approach of Olive Berger, RN, a nurse anesthetist at Johns Hopkins hospital for 30 years. Berger provided anesthesia for and documented care given to many of Alfred Blalock MD’s pioneering “blue baby” surgeries.
Olive Berger spent her entire career navigating a highly politically charged and contested space of practice. Her collaboration with Dr. Alfred Blalock facilitated and enabled surgical advancement. Nurse anesthetist historian Virginia Thacker makes the case that as medicine grew more complex during the 1930s to 1950s, collaboration with physicians (she called it interdependence) was an essential part of progress. Large institutions, like Johns Hopkins, were highly organized and surgeon-nurse anesthetist collaboration evolved. Olive Berger was Alfred Blalock’s archetype of a nurse anesthetist.
Olive Berger witnessed and participated in the transition in medicine and anesthesia from an art to a science, incorporating advances in technology with the techniques and skills of nursing. Like other nurse anesthetists in the 1940s, Olive Berger contributed to the shape and form of the profession by her willingness to go beyond the defined boundaries of nurse anesthesia practice of the era.

PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
Nurse Anesthesia
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