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Memorial Day Remembrance: Nurses Serving! May 29, 2017

Posted by mariemanthey in Academia, History, Inspiration, Leadership, Professional Practice.
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Wartime nursing is unique, but also those periods in history tend to have an outsize effect on peacetime nursing as well. During World War II for example, huge changes took place. No one wants war, but we can honor those who served. I personally find this period fascinating, and with my work with the Heritage committee at the University of Minnesota School of Nursing’s Alumni Society, have been able to delve into it with great delight. Here are a few notes on some of what took place then, creating our present moment today.

As of 1943 the US Public Health Service had already funneled $ 5.7 m into nursing education, to stem the inevitable shortage of nurses, even as they knew that amount would be insufficient.

So Frances Payne Bolton, US Rep from Ohio, set in motion the Cadet Nurse Corps which was signed in to law that year. Under that program $150m was dispersed for scholarships and direct stipends – uniformly across the country, without regard for race and ethnicity, to all nursing schools.

Not only did this result in a massive surge of paramilitary recruits (targets were met every year), but nursing schools themselves radically transformed. The program was terminated in 1948, but by then 124,000 women had been enrolled, and nursing schools – especially those serving non-white populations – took huge steps forward in the condition of their facilities and equipment.

Here in Minnesota,  Katherine J. Densford, Director of Nursing at the U of Minnesota, was another leader active during that period, serving as president of the American Nurses Association among other positions.  She worked closely with Payne Bolton and Roosevelt to help supply nurses to the front lines – the University of Minnesota School of Nursing educated 10% of all US Cadet nurses educated during that period.

Densford also determined that the lag time between when nurses completed the recruitment application and when they were actually inducted actually took 6-8 months initially. She spear-headed efforts to reduce the bureaucratic tangle and as a result that lag time was reduced down to only 4-6 weeks!

A much needed -addition to the  Powell Hall nurses dormitory was built at the University of Minnesota with  Cadet Funds, and this is where I had my office while Primary Nursing was being created.

Another tidbit I wanted to share: May 1944, the national induction ceremony was held in DC, and it was for all nurses being inducted around the country, and so it was broadcast nationally on the radio.   KSTP carried in the Twin Cities. Thousands of nurses attended the induction  in Minnesota at the Northrop auditorium. The program included a song composed for the occasion, sung by Bing Crosby.

The ‘snappy’ nurse cadet uniform was actually created by Edith Heard – a famous Hollywood costume designer.  Wearing this uniform gave Cadet nurses the same ‘perks’ given to military men and women….like free admission to movies!

This bold initiative was a vital part of the war effort, serving both the military and civilian hospital needs.   This memorial day is a good time to remember the dedicated nurses who saved the lives of soldiers on the battle field.

 

Additional resources:

U of MN School of Nursing History

Leadership at the U of MN School of Nursing

Smithsonian website for the National Museum of American History, Kenneth E. Behring Center:

Comments»

1. Christa - May 29, 2017

Thank you Marie for sharing these memories.

mariemanthey - May 29, 2017

I love paying attention to the past, honoring memories, and anticipating the future!
MM/cs


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