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ENA mourns death of co-founder Judith Kelleher


Judith Kelleher, RN, MSN, FAEN, co-founder of the Emergency Nurses Association, died Jan. 24 at age 89, the ENA announced.

ENA Executive Director Susan Hohenhaus, RN, LPD, CEN, FAEN, said Kelleher’s death marked the loss of “a great visionary and emergency nurse leader.”

“She will be dearly missed by her ENA family,” Hohenhaus added in a news release.

Kelleher was born Aug. 5, 1923. Her nursing career dates to World War II, when she joined the U.S. Navy’s Cadet Nurse Corps and attended nursing school at Methodist Hospital in Dallas. She moved to California with her husband, Daniel R. Kelleher (who died in 1988), eventually raising four children. Kelleher was living in Stockton, Calif., at the time of her death.

After graduating from the nursing program at San Joaquin County General Hospital in Stockton, Kelleher earned a Bachelor of Arts degree from California State University, Long Beach, a MSN from Long Beach State University and a degree in public health nursing from California State.

She worked in various roles at Downey (Calif.) Community Hospital, 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.

Kelleher joined forces with Anita Dorr, RN, FAEN, an emergency nurse leader who was based in New York, to form the national Emergency Department Nurses Association in December 1970. The name was shortened to the Emergency Nurses Association in 1985.

Kelleher was elected the first president of EDNA, serving from 1973 to 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,” JoAnn Lazarus, RN, MSN, CEN, 2013 ENA president, said in the news release. “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, visit


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