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:/www.minoritynurse.com/statistics.html


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: