Nursing in World War II: Overseas

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After the Japanese fleet bombed Pearl Harbor surprisingly killing many US soldiers in December 1941, the United States entered into World War II. The text described World War II as “the largest and most violent armed conflict in the history of mankind” (Sullivan, 2003.p.1). The United States during the war required a tremendous amount of manpower that was needed. This created a lot of opportunities for American women to serve in many roles and occupations that was mostly occupied by men (Sullivan, 2003). During world war II ‘ the nation’s military once again found itself without an adequate supply of nurses’ (Black, 2017.p.34). Congress sought to make plans financially for women who wanted to become nurses in the military so they created nursing programs. One nursing program that was formed is called the Cadet Nurse Corps. In this program, women attended for two and a half years instead of three for an exchange of serving in the Army nurse corps when they graduated. Over 124,000 nurses volunteered, graduated and were certified to serve for the United States military (Black, 2017).

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Nurses in the military during World War II served in many roles. During the war, American nurses worked closely to the front lines in which they served in many field hospitals, evacuation hospitals, on hospital trains and hospitals ships and medical transport planes (Sullivan, 2003.p.3). These nurses were dedicated and had the required skills in which they contributed to the low post-mortality rate among American military forces (Sullivan, 2003). In order to serve in the Army nurse corps, there were a few requirements for women. Women who wanted to join and serve as a nurse had to be either twenty-one to forty years of age, unmarried, an high school graduate, a graduate of an three year nursing training program with an license in one state, and also an US citizen or an citizen from an Allied country (Sundin, 2018).

The basic training for nurses started in July of 1943 which marked the first basic training center in Fort Meade, MD (Sundin, 2018. p. 2). Nurses were training for four weeks learning about the military and practices, managing hospitals rooms, also about the use of gas masks and how to read maps. The nurses also did physical training and different drills (Sundin, 2018). Women in the military also wore different uniforms to represent themselves as nurses in the hospital and on the field.

At the beginning of World War II, nurses were required to wear a white dress and cap when in the hospital other words known as a ward. Outside of the ward nurses wore a dark blue service jacket and a medium blue skirt, blue or white shirt with a black tie and a dark blue service cap (Sundin, 2018). In combat areas nurses uniforms were somewhat different then what was worn in the hospital or outside. The army provided brown and white ward outfits with a matching jacket otherwise known as a seersucker uniform ,which is an wrap around dress, with brown shoes and a hat. Included in the dress uniforms was marron piping on the garrison cap, epaulets, and cuffs also an insignia which was a single gold bar for second lieutenants, which was worn by the vast majority of nurses (Sundin, 2018.p.5).

During the war, there were many women just like men who were nurses who served at the front lines who experienced and saw very disturbing things. The text describes their work conditions as “harsh making emergency decision on the spot for severely wounded soldiers in the field hospitals” (Scrubs, 2016. p. 1). There were many air raids which wounded a lot of soldiers which disturbed the nurses. For women, this was the closest they ever got to war on the front lines. When the nurses returned back to America after the war some were haunted by what they saw during the war (Scrubs,2016). Some nurses developed post-traumatic stress disorder when they served overseas. One incident that has taken a turn for nurses during world war II was when seventy-nine American nurses that were held as prisoners of war by the Japanese in the Philippines (Scrubs, 2016. p.1).

In the 1940s it was typical for physicians to want speedy obedience from nurses and to be in charge of everything in the hospital (Sundin, 2018). During world war II things begin to change for both the nurses and physicians. In the military nurses were asked to perform newly learned tasks and were also given more authority in different combat zones. This was the first time that nurses under their supervision were able to administer anesthesia and give intravenous medications and fluids. Flight nurses were in charge during a flight to treat several medical emergencies also (Sundin, 2018).

When it came to administering medications nurses were held responsible for the keys of opening the ward cabinets where medications were stored. Nurses were trained to give medicine orally, subcutaneous which back then was known as hypodermic and intramuscular also topically (Sundin, 2018). The way things were carried during World war II was unsanitary for the nurses and this was long before the universal precautions era. This meant that syringes were sterilized for reuse instead of disposing of them and also gloves were also rewashed and reused and if there were holes in the gloves they were repaired (Sundin, 2018.p.4). The text described the little amount of supplies provided during WWII, “medical professionals faced shortages of instruments, suture material and sterile supplies and doctors who performed major surgery continued to pass scissors back and forth from one table to another”(Sullivan, 2003.p.4). Because of world war II being an little hectic nurses and health care providers tried to provide the best care at an fast pace with their limited supplies or medications.

All nurses were responsible for keeping the ward clean and in order and quiet although there were some difficult times to achieve this. The nurse was responsible for changing linens, helping patients with activities of daily living. For all patients, the nurses were responsible for all vital signs, patient symptoms and signs for the physician and recorded them in intervals at least twice daily (Sundin, 2018).

After the end of World war II, the text described “military nurses were awarded full commissioned officer status in both the Army and Navy nurse corps and also segregation of African American nurses was ended” (Black, 2017. p.34). Other changes that took place was that men were allowed to be in the military nursing corps in 1954. Their was an increase of funds to build hospitals, but their was also some problems that took place. Nurses were getting paid less and working long hours because of the shortage of nurses and the increase amount of hospital beds. This led to nurses being unhappy about their occupations. Nursing salaries throughout the years have increased tremendously (Ranard, 2015).

Nursing has not completely changed because as a nurse they still have to work long hours, stand on their feet for most of the day and have to be patient focused. In today’s society of being an nurse it also takes away time from their personal lives with their family or children. In time this is mostly the reason for nursing shortages which has led to the suffering of back pain, and high stress levels because of constantly working and not enough of sleep (Ranard, 2015).

One thing that was created in response to nursing shortages was the new concept of “team nursing” (Black, 2017). The text describes, “team nursing involves the provision of care to a group of patients by a group of care providers” (Black, 2017.p.34). In other words team nursing was an way to involve the teamwork of all the nurses to carry out the best plan of care for patients. Nursing education today is mostly about health care knowledge and the profession is now an diverse profession (Ranard, 2015.p.2). Nursing today is still an great profession to pursue and it continues to grow. The text described “nurses and patients are alike, the advances made have helped the nursing field to go from being one that isn’t revered as being one that deserves respect” (Ranard, 2015). There has been changes in nursing school, and health care in general and nursing is growing also along with the responsibilities. In other words, the amount of education is still somewhat similar but nurses can expand throughout their career and learn more skills to advance. This professions is a respected field to go in to still today.

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Nursing in World War II: Overseas. (2022, Sep 06). Retrieved December 10, 2022 , from
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