Cover Story: A Necessary Examination of the Past

The Army Nurse
By: Mary Sheintoch

Academic authors from many disciplines have analyzed the impact of social phenomena on the nursing profession. It is now widely understood that a thorough exploration of the connection between societal forces and nursing’s narrative story is important for those who value nursing’s past as well as its present and future contributions to healthcare. Students of nursing history recognize that war has always been a significant factor in the evolution of the profession. In particular, the United States Civil War and World War II propelled nursing forward in numerous ways. During both conflicts, many unique individuals expended the labor and sacrificed their personal happiness in order to make these advancements possible. However, most maturational processes entail “growing pains” which are a necessary accompaniment to development. Consequently, while both conflicts spurred exceptional progress in nursing, they also resulted in some detrimental aftereffects that have persisted until the present time.

The Civil War and World War II “left indelible marks on the status of women, the professional development of nursing, and the national environment of health care” (Brunk, 1997, p. 217). Prior to the Civil War, the profession of nursing was virtually non-existent, and very few women of any means or reputation would ever consider nursing as a vocation. Yet, within a span of eighty years, President Franklin Roosevelt was so alarmed by the nursing shortage both here and abroad that he actually considered a draft to rectify the drastic need for nurses. The change in public perception of nursing as well as the healthcare system’s undisputable reliance on nurses was accomplished within a relatively short period of time.

Despite the stunning achievements garnered by the nursing profession during these conflicts, there were negative aftereffects that accompanied these movements forward. Although the Civil War and World War II undeniably provided the context for both individual and professional growth, some of the lasting consequences of the progression resulted in difficulty in the establishment of future autonomy for nurses who had performed so admirably during wartime. Likewise, the unique contributions made by individuals were sometimes forgotten during the national periods of readjustment following the wars resulting in a profession whose demographic remained largely white and female despite the contributions of a diverse group of people. These undesired effects remained problematic for years to come. Nevertheless, the nursing profession can use the opportunity that the persistent dilemmas offer to recognize the importance of research that examines the historical context and narrative progression of nursing. Further exploration of these topics can provide the valuable insight needed to enable the profession to move forward to a better tomorrow.


Brunk, Q. (1997). Nursing at War: Catalyst for Change. Annual Review of Nursing Research, 15, 217-236.


Civil War Nurses

By: Kathy Boccella

The nurses of the Civil War helped make nursing a respected occupation. Before the Civil War, nursing was limited to mothers nursing their family members. At the start of the Civil War most nurses were uneducated women who volunteered their services. As the war progressed the nurses were trained and received minimal pay and army rations for their services. They feed the soldiers, dressed their wounds, helped with amputations and did what they could to comfort the soldiers (Roper, 2009). Walt Whitman, Dorothea Dix, Clara Barton, Nancy Hill and Sally Louisa Tompkins are just some of the nurses who made a difference in the Civil War.

Walt Whitman saw the need to care for the wounded soldiers when he found his brother shot on the battlefield. He stayed with his brother for a week and became aware of the soldier’s suffering. Moved by what he saw on the battlefield, Whitman decided to be a volunteer nurse in a Washington hospital. He had no formal education in nursing, he learned by watching the other nurses. He spent a lot of his time comforting the soldiers and writing condolence letters to their families. Whitman not only cared for the soldier’s physical wounds, but also their psychological wounds. He took a holistic approach to nursing by caring for the whole person. During his seven years of service, Whitman cared for over 80,000 soldiers. Many of Walt Whitman’s poems, including “Drum Taps”, were written about his nursing experiences in the Civil War. In 1870, Whitman left nursing because of symptoms related to post-traumatic stress disorder. Until his death 20 years later, Whitman continued to suffer psychological consequences because of the horror that he experienced during the war (Roper, 2009).

Dorothea Dix was appointed Superintendent of Union Army Nurses. She was the first female to hold that position. Dix was in charge of Armory Square, one of Washington’s largest Civil War hospitals. The most seriously wounded soldiers were brought to this hospital. Dix was a strong willed person who often ignored orders. Her perseverance gave her the nickname “Dragon Dix”. She recruited over 2,000 female nurses. Nursing was greatly improved and her nurses were taken care of under her appointment. After the war, Dorothea Dix became an advocate for the mentally ill (Raatma, 2005).

Nancy Hill was known for her sound judgment and bravery. In 1864, while working at Armory Square Hospital in Washington, Hill ignored Army orders and admitted 250 wounded soldiers. The soldiers did not have the proper paper work and they were not allowed to enter the hospital without it. Hill escorted the soldiers into the hospital and began treating them. The next day when the soldiers’ paper work arrived, Hill was commended for her actions. During the Battle of the Wilderness, Hill nursed the wounded soldiers on the battlefield. She was lady nurse of Ward F and continued to nurse wounded soldiers until the end of the war. Hill later received her medical degree. She helped to establish the Industrial Training School to educate unwed mothers, which evolved into the Hillcrest Family Services that continues to help families today (Cherba & Deckert, 2006).

Clara Barton is probably the most famous Civil War nurse. She wanted to join the Department of Female Nurses in the Union Army, but knew that she couldn’t tolerate Dorothea Dix. Barton began working for a charity that fed and comforted the soldiers. Independently, she gathered medicine and supplies and delivered them to the battlefields. Soon Barton began staying on the battlefields and nursing the wounded soldiers. She nursed with skill and empathy. Towards the end of the war, Barton would search for and identify missing Union soldiers (LaFantasie, 2005). After serving in the International Red Cross, she began the American Red Cross, which continues to feed and shelter people today.

Although there are many Confederate nurses, there is little attention focused on them. Sally Louisa Tomkins used her inheritance to establish and supply Robertson Hospital in Richmond, Virginia. Robertson Hospital attended to 1,333 Confederate soldiers. It had a 94.5 percent survival rate (Raatma, 2005). Tomkins’s generosity and good care saved the lives of many Confederate soldiers.

Without the bravery and compassion of the Civil War nurses many more American lives would have been lost during the war. They truly wanted to help the wounded soldiers, regardless of their stipend. In 1892, Nancy Hill and other volunteer nurses were awarded a twelve dollar per month pension. Walt Whitman, Dorothea Dix, Nancy Hill, Clara Barton, and Sally Louisa Tomkins are just a few of the Civil War nurses who made nursing a necessary and respectable occupation. Their tenacity continued after the war to serve the less fortunate.


Cherba, C., & Deckert, E. (2006). Nancy hill-Civil War nurse, pioneering doctor. Civil WarTimes,   5(8), 15-20. Retrieved from http:/

LaFantasie, G., (2005). Clara Barton. America’s Civil War, 18(2). Retrieved from                                                                                                                                                                 http:/

Raatma, L., (2005). Great Women of the Civil War. Minneapolis,MN:Compass Books.

Roper, R., (2009). Collateral Damage: The Civil War only enhanced George Whitman’s soldierly satisfaction; for his brother Walt, however, the horrors halted an outpouring of great poetry. American Scholar, 78, 75-82. Retrieved from http:/web.

The Civil War and the Profession of Nursing: Positive Advancement and Negative Consequences

"Civil War Nurse"By: Mary Sheintoch

The trauma of war not only imparts both physical and psychological wounds on the people fighting in conflicts but also serves as a potent impetus to the public at large who has witnessed the tragedy to change certain social constructs in order to improve the future for its descendants. The United States Civil War which spanned the years 1861-1865 accomplished such a task by advancing the nursing profession from invisible unrecognized domestic labor to a valued vocation that served honorably in an expert capacity. The dramatic contributions nurses made prompted many people in positions of power to institute reforms that resulted in a vastly improved healthcare delivery system as well as training schools for nurses all at a time when modern medicine itself was still in its infancy. It must be noted, however, that any comprehensive analysis of this period of nursing history will reveal some movement backward as well.  Unfortunately, some of the negative consequences that arose in the post-Civil War era continued to adversely affect the nursing profession for years to come.

At the time that fighting broke out at Fort Sumter in April, 1861, most nursing care was largely provided for at home by female family members under the supervision (perhaps) of the local doctor who visited the ill or injured patients and dispensed medicines and treatments. Victorian influences prevailed which specified that “women concern themselves with home, church, women’s clubs, women’s reform groups, and their female relatives and friends” (Lesniak, 2009, p. 34). Thus, the profession of nursing as a secular vocation largely did not exist. Any nursing that was done outside of the domestic arena was usually performed by religious orders or institutions. During wartime, male soldiers themselves cared for sick and dying men in the most rudimentary fashion.

However, conflict in Europe spurred advances in the nursing profession as Florence Nightingale’s work during the Crimean War not only shed light on improved nursing practices, but demonstrated the idea that genteel women of good family could effectively provide much needed care outside the confines of the home. Similarly, nurses during the Civil War performed their duties not only in military hospitals, but in army camps and even on the battlefield (Quincealea, 1997). The important effort to save lives and comfort the dying was, in effect, done out of necessity in professional, albeit crude, settings.  Consequently, “the war served as the beginning of moving the profession from the home to the hospital and clinic” (Weatherford, 2010, p. 2).

After the conclusion of the war, powerful voices in medicine and government recognized the need for trained nurses and, therefore, formal programs of learning emerged as the United States began the painful process of reconstruction (Quincealea, 1997). As the public acknowledged the important contributions nurses made during the previous conflict and society relaxed some of its strictures regarding women’s roles outside the home, several models of schooling were developed which reflected the goals and values of the people who conceived them. In general, these educational systems trained subsequent generations of nurses thereby providing the skilled workforce needed to staff the rapidly modernizing hospital system.

During the years following the war as the hospital system became more efficiently institutionalized, “three major nursing organizational schemes developed….[which] designed educational and organizational systems consistent with its own particular view of nursing” (Baer, 1985, p. 32). For instance, Nightingale schools emerged which professed the philosophy that training should occur within a framework that was somewhat self-directed. These bodies were governed by women managerial boards that were separate from the hospital system. Interestingly, there was strong emphasis placed on the notion that the ideal student candidate be female, sober, industrious, and above all, genteel. A second model arose at Boston City Hospital under the supervision of Linda Richards that directly placed the student nurses under hospital command. This arrangement required that nurses exist in a subordinate role subject largely to male medical domination. Finally, a third approach under the auspices of Isabel Hampton came about which actually aspired to a more autonomous professional ideal. All in all, great strides were made in the field of nursing education taking it from a non-existent state to a recognizable institution.

Unfortunately, there were negative consequences of this progression forward that adversely impacted nursing for quite some time. Historical research now documents that care-giving duties were performed by a wide range of people that included men and people of color of both genders (Domrose, 2011). This diverse group made significant contributions often at the expense of their own health and well-being. Walt Whitman, for instance, suffered from the physical and emotional scars he received during his nursing service for the rest of his life. He eventually died of a complicated range of maladies that were directly attributed to his war work (Hsu, 2010). Countless others performed grueling and often dangerous drudgery with little recompense. Regrettably, much of the credit for nursing advancements went solely to white women of the upper class which, in effect, discounted the sacrifices of so many.

Furthermore, the close association that connected femininity with nursing ultimately became the basis for tension as manifested by nursing’s desire for greater self-determination and respect in the face of degrading demands for subservience from the medical establishment. In essence, the perception that females possessed natural ability to nurture and care for others “ultimately undermined their struggle for greater autonomy” (Schultz, 2004, p. 3). An unfortunate expectation developed that nurses should perform a servile role solely under the direction of mostly male medical professionals. This assumption naturally made future attempts to establish a profession separate from medicine more difficult.

The Civil War was a pivotal event not only in America’s experience but in nursing’s narrative as well. What was primarily domesticated tasks performed by female familial caregivers evolved into an occupation that took place in settings far from the comforts of home. Ultimately, the conflict prompted the formation of a hospital system that was a harbinger of modern times. This organizational structure required skilled nurses to staff the facilities and, thus, gave rise to the need for nursing education. Different modalities emerged which educated generations of women who gave rise ultimately to a true profession.  Like many developmental processes, this progression was not always entirely smooth. There were missteps along the way that did negatively impact the vocation for some time. However, the strength of the nursing profession ensured that reflection upon the past provided wisdom and guidance for a brighter future.


Baer, E. D. (1985, Jan-Feb). Nursing’s Divided House – An Historical View. Nursing Research, 34(1), 32-38.

Domrose, C. (2011, May 2). The Civil War and Nursing. Nursing Spectrum, pp. 25-32.

Hsu, D. (2010). Walt Whitman: An American Civil War Nurse who Witnessed the Advent of Modern American Medicine. Archives of Environmental and Occupational Health, 65, 238-239.

Lesniak, R. G. (2009, Jan-Mar). Expanding the Role of Women as Nurses During the American Civil War. Advances in Nursing Science, 32(1), 33-42.

Quincealea, B. (1997). Nursing at War: Catalyst for Change. Annual Review of Nursing Research, 15, 217-36.

Schultz, J. E. (2004). Women at the Front. Chapel Hill and London: The University of North Carolina Press.

Weatherford, D. (2010). The Evolution of Nursing. Retrieved from

Influential Nurses of World War II

By: Nichole Moyer

When the war began with the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941, recruitment for nurses to join the military had already begun. In 1940, as the second world war loomed in Americas future, the American Nurses association, along with other nursing organizations, formed the Nursing Council for National Defense. This group worked with the American Red Cross to coordinate a recruitment campaign and contact nurses about serving in the military (Egenes, K.) Recruitment efforts also included advertisements in newspapers, magazines, pamphlets, and filmstrips (Jackson, 2000). Julia Stimson, who was named superintendent of the Army Nurse Corps and first Dean of the Army School of Nursing, served as a recruiter for military nurses. She proved to be an essential part in the effort by traveling to cities across the country encouraging young women to serve (Egenes). In They Called Them Angels, Jackson writes about how even First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt aided in recruitment efforts (Jackson, 2000).

Although the demand for nurses had grown exponentially and the availability could not meet the need, there were still several requirements for nurses joining the military. Nurses that applied for service had to be citizens of the United States. They also had to be graduates of an approved nursing school and registered nurses. At the start of the war, nurses had to be between the ages of 21 and 40 but the age was later raised to 45. In the beginning, nurses also had to be single but by 1942, married nurses were also recruited (Jackson, 2000).

The military accepted very few black nurses during World War II. In 1941, Della Raney Jackson became the first black nurse to be commissioned to the U.S. Army as a lieutenant. She was promoted to chief nurse in 1942, captain in 1945, and major in 1946. Major Jackson was honored by the Tuskegee Airmen for her “outstanding leadership, service, professionalism, and for her historic achievements that personify the “Tuskegee Spirit”.” Susan Elizabeth Freeman served as the Chief Nurse in the first overseas unit of black nurses. Freeman joined the Army in 1941 and was quickly promoted to first lieutenant. She later became the first black nurse to be promoted to captain. In (Carnegie, 1986).

Francis Payne Bolton, in collaboration with the National Nursing Council, created a bill passed by Congress that provided funding for nursing education for national defense. Shortly thereafter, The Bolton Act of 1942 lead to the formation of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. This act was designed for nurses to quickly meet the challenges of military nursing by decreasing the length of education for nurses from 36 months to 30 months. It had an influence on nursing education and standards and also revoked rules that discriminated against gender, race, ethnicity, and marital status (Egenes).

Nurses received 1,619 medals, citations, and commendations for serving in World War II. Annie Fox was the first of many Army nurses to receive a purple heart and a bronze star. Fox was serving as First Lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps at Hickam Field at the time of the attack on Pearl Harbor. She received the awards for her fine example of calmness, courage, and leadership, which was of great benefit to the morale of all she came in contact with.” (Bellafaire)

The list of distinguished nurses from World War II exceeds that which can be put into one article. There are countless pieces devoted to commemorating the accomplishments of nurses and the integral part they played in national defense during wartime. By the end of the war, 215 nurses died while serving for the United States. Nurses were serving closer to the front lines than ever before and their courageous efforts can be compared to that of nurses in more modern day wars (Klainberg). Upon their return to civilian life, many nurses took advantage of educational opportunities available due to the G.I. Bill of Rights (Bellafaire). World War II provided nurses with skills that allowed them to advance professionally as individuals, which in turn lead to advancement of the nursing profession as a whole.


Bellafaire, J.A. (2003) The Army Nurse Corps: A Commemoration of World War II Service. Retrieved from

Carnegie. M.E. (1986) Blacks in Nursing 1854-1984: The Path We Tread. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott Company

Egenes, K. History of Nursing: Chapter 1. [PDF]. Retrieved from

Jackson, K. (2000) They Called Them Angels: American Military Nurses of World War II. [DX Reader Version]. Retrieved from

Klainberg, M. (2010) A Historical Overview of Nursing: Chapter 2In M. Klainberg & K. Dirschel (Eds.), Today’s Nursing Leader (pp 29-39). Retrieved from

World War II’s Influence on Nursing

By: LaCoya Pace

December 7, 1941 a date that will forever be remembered in American history, was the day that Pearl Harbor was attacked by Japan. The air in the country after the attack was that of patriotism and determination to defend the nation. America’s involvement in World War II had a profound effect on the profession of nursing. In the time frame of the war nursing saw influences and changes take place within the creation of the National Nursing Council for War, the shortage in nurses, the expansion of nursing practice used while in flight, the view of African Americans serving their country, and the post-war affects of nursing when the war ended.

Prior to America’s involvement into the war President Roosevelt gave urgent talks to the country about the situation in Europe. It was Roosevelt’s imperative message about the need for national preparedness that help root the creation of The National Nursing Council for War. The council was created in July 1940 to represent the nursing profession in the United States. The council’s role included the promotion of the creation of a national inventory of registered nurses, expansion of existing nursing schools facilities, creating two categories of nursing: military or civilian nursing and supply additional nursing services to hospitals (Jamieson, Sewall, & Suhrie, 1966). In the beginning of America’s involvement of World War II many nurses were undecided about if they should join as military nurses or remain civilian nurses. However, The National Nursing Council for War Service established guidelines for the two different categories of service the nurses could go into: A nurse should serve in the armed forces if she was single, under 40 years old, and (1) doing private duty; (2) on a hospital’s general staff; (3) a head nurse not essential for teaching or supervision; (4) a public health nurse not essential for maintaining minimum civilian health service in any given community; (5) in a non-nursing position; or (6) an office nurse (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1978, p. 453).

With the establishment of the National Nursing Council for War the nursing shortage was able to be tackled. With encouragement from the council the United States Public Health Service conducted a National Inventory of Registered Nurses, which informed them of the number of nurses in the nation, their preparation, experience and availability to help with the war (Jamieson et al., 1966). After the National Inventory of Registered Nurses was conducted it allowed for federal funds to be granted to nursing schools in the nation in good standing, so that they could increase student enrollment. During the beginning of World War II nurses that joined the military did not receive many benefits and were also underpaid compared to their male counter parts. However, as the war continued the need for nurses in both the civilian and military settings became so great that in 1943 Congress passed the Bolton Bill, sponsored by Mrs. Frances Payne Bolton (Jamieson et al., 1966). The Bolton Act was able to launch the United States Cadet Nurse Corps in which women that wanted to enter nursing school could do so with financial help from the government (Jamieson et al., 1966). Under the Bolton Act nursing students received an accelerated nursing education for 30 months or less along with their tuition, books, and uniforms paid for, and a monthly stipend.  However, in return these students had to remain as an active civilian or military nurse for the duration of the war. The Bolton Act also financially supported retired nurses willing to return to work to take refresher courses. Even though the Bolton Act helped to evade the shortage of military nurses needed, a shortage of nurses in the civilian hospitals corresponded. In response to this shortage the Red Cross created a Nurses’ Aid program in which volunteers were able to aid the nurses in some tasks. Yet, during the war the American Hospital Associate conducted a survey that revealed that in 23% of the nation’s hospital beds, wards and operating rooms were not being utilized because of the inadequate quantity of workers (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1978). Despite all of the recruiting from the Cadet Nurse Corps it came to the world as a shock in 1945 when President Roosevelt requested a draft for nurses. Another attempt at ending the nursing shortage was the Nurses’ Selective Service Bill of 1945, in which President Franklin D. Roosevelt proposed a nurse’s draft if they were not able to get the necessary support through voluntary means (Brunk, 1997). However, the threat of a draft for nurses did manage to have 10,000 women volunteer all within the month of January (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1978), but the war came to an end after the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki and the surrender of Japan.

By way of the Cadet Nurse Corps many women were able to take advantage of the opportunity were also privileged to be in attendance for the creation of flight nursing. Lauretta M. Schimmoler is given credit for the original idea of flight nurses (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1978). Initially the idea of nurses or any medical officials on aircrafts in which injured soldiers would be transported was opposed. However, in spite of the various discrepancies in 1942 a Nursing Division in the Air Surgeon’s office was established (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1978, p. 461). Nurses were able to join the flight nurse training only after going through the Army Nurse Corps and serving six months in an Army Air Force unit hospital, followed by acceptance to Flight Nursing School. The nurse received the title of ‘flight nurse’ after being granted the honor by the Commanding General of the Army Air Forces (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1978). While on missions flight nurses typically carried out their duties 5,000 to 10,000 feet in the air in an aircraft that was not pressurized (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1978). While in flight nurses watched for soldiers that may have an anxiety attack (Judd et al., 2010, p. 137), as well nurses also administered oxygen in flight and worked as a team with pharmacists. These flight nurses, who volunteered for this position, were truly courageous. They flew in C-46 planes that were unmarked and transported cargo and troops to the battle fields. Because the aircrafts were unmarked it made them fair game as a target in war zones. After dropping off the cargo they helped transform the aircraft into an ambulance for the ill and injured soldiers they would pick up. During the war 1079 flight nurses graduated from the AAF School of Air Evacuation, and committed themselves to helping the country (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1978).

Along with the advancement of flight nursing there was also advancement with African American nurses during the war. Interestingly enough African American nurses were allowed to serve during World War I in the corps, but they were not accepted in the beginning of World War II. Mabel K. Staupers, the executive secretary of the National Association of Colored Graduate Nurses asked President Roosevelt to change the discriminatory policy so that African American nurses would be able to serve in the war (Kuhn, 1999, p. 53). In January 1941, Staupers efforts paid off when the Army opened the nurse corps to black women. However there was a limit of only 56 African American nurses that could join the corps (Sheldon, 1998). In WAAC (Women’s Army Auxiliary Corps) enlisted African American women served in segregated units, participated in segregated training, lived in separate quarters, ate at separate tables in mess halls, and used segregated recreation facilities (Sheldon, 1998). These African American nurses that were able to serve in the war were also mandated to primarily nurse black soldiers. In face of these segregated times in July 1944 the quota for African American Army Nurses was eliminated (Sheldon, 1998). Towards the end of the war there was a strong movement for the recruitment of African American nurses, as supported by the militaries foundation of the Coordinating Committee on Negro Nursing to help push for racial equality (Judd et al., 2010). By the end of the war only 500 African American women had served in the nurse cadet corps (Kuhn, 1999).

With the ending of the World War II many changes were brought to the profession of nursing, but no one could have expected an increased nursing shortage after the war as being an effect. After the war ended only one in six nurses returned to their previous nursing positions (Judd et al., 2010, p. 141). In a survey conducted post-war 65% of the hospitals reported that they were acutely short of nursing personnel (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1978, p. 493). It became a huge mystery as to where a good majority of the registered nurses went after the war. Subsequent to the war many nurses returned to the United States and went on vacation, some were injured from serving in the war, many married and others returned back to being retired (Jamieson et al., 1966). Some nurses did not return to their pre-war jobs because they decided to take advantage of the GI Bill and advance their education (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1978). However, one of the primary reasons some nurses did not return was a complaint they voiced that they had a lack of autonomy in their institutions compared to the flexibility and satisfying roles with great responsibility they had in the military (Judd et al., 2010). Many nurses had felt that they achieved the status of professional and were often not treated as that by physicians, administrators, or the public (Kalisch & Kalisch, 1978). Wages were also an issue as to why some nurses did not want to return. These nurses felt they were being underpaid especially in comparison to women in other non-nursing occupations. Following the refusal of nurses returning there was an added shortage of nurses due to the decreased entrance of women into nursing schools after the removal of the Cadet Nurse Corps (Jamieson et al., 1966). Furthermore registered nurses felt insulted with the growing expansion of the use of practical nurses and nurses’ aides taking the jobs that they did.

Following World War II the profession of nursing was given so much such as autonomy, representation in the United States through the National Nursing Council for War, the ability to grow in their specialty through flight nursing, the ability to diversify and strengthen the representation of African American nurses, and attaining respect from the public as an important component in the war. Yet, in spite of these gains, the profession of nursing was ultimately pushed back due to the nurses returning back to their pre-war jobs that did not mature as they did while fighting for their country.


Brunk, Q. (1997). Nursing at War: Catalyst for Change. Annual Review of Nursing Research, 15, 217-236.

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Jamieson, E. M., Sewall, M. F., & Suhrie, E. B. (1966). Trends In Nursing History: Their Social, International and Ethical Relationships (6th ed.). Philadelphia, PA: W.B. Saunders Company.

Judd, D., Sitzman, K., & Davis, G. M. (2010). A History of American Nursing: Trends and Eras. Sudbury, MA: Jones and Bartlett Publishers.

Kalisch, P. A., & Kalisch, B. J. (1978). The Advance of American Nursing. Boston, MA: Little, Brown and Company.

Kuhn, B. (1999). Angels of Mercy: The Army Nurses of World War II. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

Robinson, V. (1946). White Caps: The Story of Nursing. Philadelphia, PA: J.B. Lippincott Company.

Sheldon, K. (1998). Brief History of Black Women in the Military. Retrieved from


By:Kathy Boccella

Civil War and World War II were instrumental in shaping the development of nursing as a profession in America. Prior to the Civil War, nursing was performed by women only in the home and fellow soldiers would nurse the wounded soldiers on the battle field. The Civil War created a dependency on nurses in the health care delivery system. The need for educated nurses led to the development of training schools. The training schools taught three distinct points of view. The Nightingale school stressed the student be female, hard-working and genteel. The model used by Linda Richards lead to the subordinate roles of nurses. Isabel Hampton had taken an autonomous professional approach to nursing. While these points of view lead to the evolution of nursing as a respected profession, they also hindered the nursing profession. Nurses were stereotyped as white females who were subservient to the doctors. Eight years later, nurses were again called upon the served in World War II. The National Nursing Council for War was created to prepare nurses for the conflict, but the nursing shortage continued.  The Bolton Act and the threat of a draft for nurses helped to end the nursing shortage. World War II gave nurses an opportunity to choose a specialty with the creation of flight nursing.  As the war progressed, African American nurses were allowed to serve in the nurse cadet corps. Because of the discriminatory barriers, only 500 African American women served in the war (Kuhn, 1999). As a result of World War II nurses gained autonomy and began recruiting African American nurses. World War 11 affected America negatively by creating a nursing shortage. The autonomy the nurses gained was not continued in the hospitals after the war ended. Nurses had gone back to the subservient roles taught in the post Civil War era. Finally in the last ten years, nurses have seen an increase in autonomy, especially in Magnet hospitals. The diversity of nursing is just beginning to change. Although the nursing population was only 5.8% male and 4.2% African American in 2004, there is a steady increase in minority nurses, changing the stereotype of the white, female nurse (Minority Nursing, 2004).


Kuhn, B. (1999). Angels of Mercy: The Army Nurses of World War II. New York, NY: Atheneum Books for Young Readers.

(2004). Statistics. Minority nurse. Retrieved from http:/