Nursing and Medicine in the Korean War

There have been nurses in every way ever fought (History.com Editors, 2018). Their job was the same but how, where and when they did their jobs differ (History.com Editors, 2018). Every war had some innovation, whether small or large, that impacted nursing (History.com Editors, 2018). There were some wars that bought about significant charge to how nurses performed their job (History.com Editors, 2018). The Korean war was one such war (History.com Editors, 2018).

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The Korean war started in 1950 and ended a brief 3 years later (Ebling Library, 2017). It may have been only 3 years long, but it was far from brief for the men and women who fought in it (Ebling Library, 2017). This war was actually a prelude to a much bigger war, the Cold war, North Korea was backed by China and the Soviet Union while South Korea was supported by the United States (Ebling Library, 2017). The three super powers did not engage each other directly, but most of the troops, supplies and equipment was supplied by them (Ebling Library, 2017).

When the Korean war began there were around 22,000 women around 7,000 were healthcare professionals (Ebling Library, 2017). There were nurses serving in every branch of the military from ships at sea to the newly formed Mobile Army Surgical Hospital (M.A.S.H) (Ebling Library, 2017). M.A.S.H was one of the main innovations to come out of this war (Ebling Library, 2017). These mobile hospitals were first established in 1945 but were used wide scale in Korea and all later wars (Ebling Library, 2017).

M.A.S.H unites could treat 400 patients a day near the battlefield (Continuing Education Unit fast, 2017). They were close enough to be highly effective yet just out of reach of enemy bombs and ammunition (Continuing Education Unit fast, 2017). These mobile hospitals could be packed up onto trucks and moved within 6 hours (Continuing Education Unit fast, 2017). They were staffed with everything from doctors, nurses and other support staff (Continuing Education Unit fast, 2017). Before the M.A.S.H units the fatality rate for a wounded soldier was about 4.5 percent, but by the end of the Korean war that rate was down to 2.5 percent (Continuing Education Unit fast, 2017). The help of helicopter acting like ambulances, they could treat wounded soldiers within minutes (Continuing Education Unit fast, 2017).

Transporting blood and blood banks while not new during the Korean war, made a break through (Continuing Education Unit fast, 2017). Blood use to be transported in glass bottles which had its own set of problems (Continuing Education Unit fast, 2017). While transporting the glass bottles full of blood they broke or were damaged (Continuing Education Unit fast, 2017). The medical team came up with a new technique to transport blood, using plastic bags. This helped get the blood from one place to another (Continuing Education Unit fast, 2017).

Just days after the first troops landed in the Korean Peninsula, a dozen nurses set up the 8055th M.A.S.H. units (History.com Editors, 2018). This unit was what the show M.A.S.H was based on (History.com Editors, 2018). It is estimated that around 1,500 nurses served in Korea (History.com Editors, 2018). Men, at this time, were still forbidden to be nurses (History.com Editors, 2018). All nurses in Korea war women and even though they were not allowed to fight on the front lines, they still come under fire while serving in M.A.S.H units (History.com Editors, 2018). Anyone that has seen M.A.S.H on TV knows that working conditions were less than desirable (History.com Editors, 2018). These nurses did far more than an average everyday nurse due to their proximity to combat (History.com Editors, 2018). They started blood transfusions, conducted triage, sutured wounds and more (History.com Editors, 2018). Their education and dedication to their job was second to, none (History.com Editors, 2018). By the end of the war, Army nurses received 9 Legion of Merit, 120 Bronze Stars, and 173 Commendation Ribbons (History.com Editors, 2018).

Conclusion

The war left Korea’s economy in ruins (Ebling Library, 2017). Before the war Korea was still recovering from World War II (Ebling Library, 2017). With their industry, politics and economy not at full strength to start with, the Civil War had a costly result (Ebling Library, 2017). Nearly 70% of all industry was destroyed and over 4 million people dead (Ebling Library, 2017). It took decades but with the help of the U.S. South Korea is a thriving country (Ebling Library, 2017). North Korea on the other hand, is far behind in its growth due mostly to its enormous military budget (Ebling Library, 2017).

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Nursing and Medicine in the Korean War. (2019, Jul 01). Retrieved October 1, 2022 , from
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