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Army Nurse Corps History Home > Army Nursing History in Pictures > History of the Army Nurse Corps, Slide Presentation with Narration

HISTORY OF THE ARMY NURSE CORPS
(Slide Presentation with Narration)

WORLD WAR I

The War Department authorized the Red Cross to develop staffs for 50 Base Hospitals to be sponsored by civilian

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hospitals. Enrollment was underway before the U.S. entered World War I. In these years the Corps strength was growing and the worth of the Nurse Corps was well established. When the U.S. entered WWI, there were 403 nurses on active duty.

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During this war approximately 22,000 nurses served; slightly over 10,000 served overseas. While no nurses died as a result of hostile fire, two nurses did die enroute to Europe of wounds caused by the faulty discharge of a deck gun on the ship they were aboard. 264 other nurses died of disease or as a result of accidents.

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During WWI nurses served with the British Expeditionary Forces, the French Forces, the American Expeditionary Forces as well as within CONUS.

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Three nurses received the nation's second highest award for valor, the Distinguished Service Cross, for their service.

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The principle concern during the War was increasing the accessions to meet the staffing needs.

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The reserve base hospital system became the primary source. During this time frame, reserve nurses were appointed for the duration of the emergency rather than for six months, also the age range for accessions was widened. Nurses could be from 21-45

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years of age. Black trained nurses were also admitted for the first time. However, segregation policies delayed their actual accession until after the armistice was signed. By demobilization, it is estimated that 1/3 of all graduate nurses in the U.S. had served in the Army. This domination of the nursing market by the military was not a problem until the flu

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epidemic of 1918 when civilian hospitals became markedly understaffed.

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In response, the Red Cross began training nursing aides to ease the shortage, a concept hotly debated. In October 1918, the

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Surgeon General asked them to enroll 1500 aides for use overseas. The armistice in November, however, prevented the implementation of the nurse assistant plan.

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Another innovative idea, The Army Schools of Nursing was approved in 1918. This was a three year program, the students would provide service as they trained. With these schools began the surfacing of clinical specialization. During the war, nurses

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were assigned both to specialty hospitals and to specialty teams attached to general hospitals. For the first time, nurses were

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used as anesthetists. The nurses received their anesthesia training in a 6 week intense course at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota. The mobilization effort highlighted other practical concerns as well. Due to their lack of formal status, it was rapidly

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discovered that the deploying nurses would need passports. Special arrangements were made with the State Department in conjunction with the British and the French governments to accept the identification provided by the War Department. During the war years the first attempts to gain retirement benefits were also made. It called for retirement at 25 years with pay. Despite the existence of nurses with 21 years of service, the legislation died in Congress.


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