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Emergency Nurses Association Announces Death of Co-Founder

The Emergency Nurses Association Board of Directors on Jan. 25 announced the death of ENA Co-Founder, Judy Kelleher, MSN, RN, FAEN. She was 89.

Kelleher died peacefully and was surrounded by her family, the ENA board collectively said in a press release. She was living in Stockton, Calif., at the time of her death.

"ENA has lost a great visionary and emergency nurse leader with the passing of our co-founder, Judy Kelleher," said ENA Executive Director, Susan Hohenhaus, LPD, RN, CEN, FAEN. "She will be dearly missed by her ENA family."

Kelleher was born Aug. 5, 1923. She joined the U.S. Navy's Cadet Nurse Corps in World War II and attended nursing school at Methodist Hospital in Dallas. She later moved to California with her husband, Daniel R. Kelleher, and the couple raised four children. Daniel Kelleher died in 1988.

After graduating from the nursing program at San Joaquin County General Hospital in Stockton, Kelleher earned her Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, a Master of Science in Nursing degree from Long Beach State University and a degree in Public Health Nursing from California State in Long Beach.

She worked in various roles at Downey Community Hospital in Downey, Calif., but found her passion in emergency nursing. Realizing there was no specialized education or training for emergency nurses, and with an eye toward setting higher standards for patient care, Kelleher announced an emergency nursing course at a May 1970 meeting of the American Academy of Orthopedic Surgeons.

She joined forces with New York emergency nurse leader Anita Dorr, RN, FAEN, and they formed the national Emergency Department Nurses Association in December 1970. The name was later changed to the Emergency Nurses Association.

Kelleher was elected the first president of EDNA, serving from 1973-1974. She led the organization to national prominence and recognition as the only association dedicated to the advancement of the specialty through education and advocacy. One of her dreams was realized in 2012, when the American Nurses Association recognized emergency nursing as a specialty.

"Judy's legacy will live on in all of us in the care that we provide for our patients and through the work of ENA," said 2013 ENA President, JoAnn Lazarus, MSN, RN, CEN. "I know we will continue to make Judy proud."

In keeping with Kelleher's expressed wish to continue to further emergency nursing education, the ENA Foundation is accepting donations in her memory. To make a donation to the memorial endowment, click here.

ENA, with more than 40,000 members worldwide, is the only professional nursing association dedicated to defining the future of emergency nursing and emergency care through advocacy, expertise, innovation and leadership. Founded in 1970, ENA develops and disseminates education and practice standards and guidelines, and affords consultation to both private and public entities regarding emergency nurses and their practice. Additional information is available at

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