The United States Cadet Nurse Corps was a program established by the Federal government in 1943. Its primary purpose was to ensure that the United States had enough nurses to care for the needs of its citizens on both the home and war fronts. The results of the Cadet Nurse Corps included a dramatic rise in the number of nursing students, a greater public recognition of nurses, and changes in the manner in which nurses were educated and trained.
When the United States entered World War II and defense production had begun, it became clear that there was a dramatic shortage of nurses in the country. Nursing registries were established and an inventory was conducted in 1941. While there were double the nurses available than at the time of World War I, the impending war and defense industry buildup raised many questions regarding the effect of the war effort on both the military and civilian communities. These questions became more pressing as more and more doctors and nurses joined the war effort.
A bill was introduced by Congresswoman Frances P. Bolton (R-Ohio) on March 29, 1943, calling for the establishment of a government program to provide grants to schools of nursing to facilitate the training of nurses to serve in the armed forces, government and civilian hospitals, health agencies, and in war related industries. The Bolton Act was passed unanimously by both houses of Congress and became law on July 1, 1943.
The Division of Nurse Education was established in the United States Public Health Service to supervise the Cadet Nurse Corps and was answerable to US Surgeon General Thomas Parran. Surgeon General Parran appointed Lucille Petry, RN as the head of the Corps.
Nursing schools throughout the United States were sent telegrams announcing the formation of the Corps and were invited to join. Of the sixteen New York State schools of nursing participated in the program, six of them (The Genesee Hospital School of Nursing, Highland Hospital School of Nursing, Rochester General Hospital School of Nursing, Rochester State Hospital, St. Mary's School of Nursing, and the University of Rochester School of Nursing) in Rochester.
From Cadet Nurse Stories: The Call For and Response of Women During World War II
Thelma M. Robinson and Paulie M. Perry
A student nurse who joined the Cadet Nurse Corps was eligible for a government subsidy that paid for her tuition, books, and uniforms as well as a small living stipend. In return, participants in the Corps pledged to actively serve in essential civilian, military or other Federal and government services for the duration of the war.
Any young woman interested in becoming a nurse was eligible for the Cadet Nurse Corps. The only requirements a potential student had to meet were that she be between the ages of seventeen and thirty-five, be in good health, and have graduated from an accredited high school with good grades. Students were able to marry, provided that they follow the guidelines established by their school.
At this moment of my induction into the United States Cadet Nurse Corps of the United States Public Health Service, I am solemnly aware of the obligations I assume toward my country and toward my chosen profession; I will follow faithfully the teachings of my instructors and the guidance of the physicians with whom I work; I will hold in trust the finest traditions of nursing and the spirit of the Corps; I will keep my body strong, my mind alert, and my heart steadfast; I will be kind, tolerant, and understanding; Above all, I will dedicate myself now and forever to the triumph of life over death; As a Cadet nurse, I pledge to my county my service in essential nursing for the duration of the war.
An amendment to the original Bolton Act stated that the Corps would be a non-discriminatory program - an important social aspect. Forty Native Americans, representing twenty-five tribes (in twelve states) enrolled in the Sage Hospital School of Nursing in Ganado, Arizona and 3000 African Americans joined the Cadet Nurse Corps as a result of this provision. The most visible minority students participating in the Cadet Nurse Corps were relocated Japanese-Americans. The National Japanese American Student Relocation Council was able to place students in nursing schools, many of which were participants in the Cadet Nurse Corps. Seven of these students were placed in Rochester at Rochester General's and The Genesee Hospital's Schools of Nursing.
Members of the Cadet Nurse Corps were required to complete their training within thirty months instead of the traditional thirty-six months. "Pre-Cadets," traditionally known as "Probies," were in the first nine months of their training. "Junior Cadets" were in the middle twenty-one months of their schooling and "served while they learned" by attending classes and then applying their book learning in the medical, surgical, obstetric, and pediatric wards.
During the final period of training, members of the Corps were known as "Senior Cadets." These students were placed where they were most needed, many in civilian, Federal or military hospitals. Other students spent their Senior Cadet period in the Indian, Public Health or Rural Health Services. Locally, students performed their Sr. Cadet service at Rochester General or Genesee Hospitals, the Baden Street Settlement, the Rochester Health Bureau, and the Rochester Visiting Nurse Association.
|Other Federal hospitals||10,009||8.6|
|Marine hospitals, Public Health Service||974||0.8|
|Hospitals where trained||85,171||73|
|Other hospitals with schools of nursing||4,448||3.8|
|Other hospitals with no school of nursing||4,759||4.1|
|Public health nursing agency||2,162||1.8|
|Other nursing service||714||0.6|
Chart source - The United States Cadet Nurse Corps and other Federal Nurse Training Programs
On joining the Corps, members were issued distinctive summer and winter "outside" uniforms. Summer uniforms consisted of a two piece gray and white striped cotton suit while winter uniforms were gray wool suits with a single-breasted jacket and gored skirt. Cadets were also provided with a winter overcoat of gray velour, a gray twill raincoat and a gray Montgomery beret.
Students wore their home schools' uniforms with shoulder patches indicating their status as Cadet Nurses.
An aggressive publicity and recruitment campaign was launched on behalf of the Cadet Nurse Corps. Advertisements and articles ran in popular magazines read by young women including Mademoiselle, Cosmopolitan, Colliers, Harper's Bazaar, and Ladies' Home Journal. Cadet Nurses were featured in movie newsreels and features, radio soap operas and variety shows and numerous color posters that were prominently placed in areas frequented by high school girls.
The vigorousness of this campaign was necessary to recruit the required number of nursing students, but also to convince uncertain parents that a career in nursing was worthwhile for their daughters. Many parents worried that enrollment in nursing school would prevent their daughters from marrying or lead to poor health due to great physical demands. This attitude was combated through advertisements that stressed the idea that nurses' training was good preparation for any future that a young woman might have, be it as a practicing nurse or as a homemaker.
One of the prominent advertisers that supported the Cadet Nurse Corps was the Eastman Kodak Company. In the calendar year of July 1943 to June 1944, Kodak donated one quarter of the one million plus dollars that went towards publicizing the Corps. Among Kodak's contributions was a full-page color advertisement, which ran in the New York Times on January 6, 1944.
Click here to view all Cadet Nurse Posters
Following the end of combat in the Pacific, the Federal government reviewed its wartime programs and decided that the Cadet Nurse Corps would admit no new students beginning in October 1945. Currently enrolled students were allowed to complete their training under the aegis of the program. The Cadet Nurse Corps ended in 1948 with the graduation of the last sponsored class of students.
In addition to changes in the training of nurses and a temporarily enlarged pool of nurses, a final area where the effect of the Cadet Nurse Corps may be felt is in the area of veteran affairs. The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Equity Act of 2003 (HR 476) was introduced by Rep. Nita Lowey and urged that participants in the Cadet Nurse Corps be granted full veteran status. This status is felt to be justified on the basis that Cadet Nurses were enlisted in a uniformed, military service in a time of war, under the command of the United States Public Health Service and the Surgeon General of the United States.
Further information on The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps Equity Act of 2003
The United States Cadet Nurse Corps offered an innovative solution to the pressing shortage of nurses at the start of the Second World War. By offering a combination of expedited training and subsidization of nursing school tuition and associated expenses, the Federal Government developed a system that temporarily freed graduate nurses for military service while ensuring that the home-front civilian and military communities received care from well trained, competent Cadet Nurses.
Research and Text: Kathleen Emerson Britton
Layout and Web design: Susan Maples
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Sources: Information for the essay this exhibit is based upon was taken from the following sources: