Nursing During the 1940’s, 50’s, & 60’s.

Nursing was really evolved during this thirty years. Technology was allowing new discoveries to be made continuously and the study of treatment and medicine was on the move. Times were greatly improving sense the 1920’s through 1930’s and people were beginning to think the great depression was behind them. The economy and health were both greatly improving. Jobs were becoming more readily available and healthcare was more affordable.  Although things seemed to be on the rise, this was still a hard time. WW2 had began and the call for nurses had greatly increased. Devastation was all around. Though the amount of jobs available were increasing, the actual labor of a nurse seemed to stay the same.

This week I read an article about one of the first great nursing shortages that occurred in the 1950s and the first nursing strikes that occurred. We all know that nursing tends to have continuing shortages due to the increased need for nurses as the population continues to grow but one of the very first nursing shortages occurred in the 1950s due to multiple reasons. During the 1920s-1930s there was not a great need for nurses as it was the time of the great depression and any job available was highly coveted. Nurses would work for little money in poor conditions with little complaint. In the 1940s and 1950s the economy had greatly improved and jobs were becoming more readily available. Nurses were becoming tired of the working conditions.

After a nurse graduated, the average salary at this time was $140 per month and some hospitals paid as little as $90 per month. This was very low income for the time and the job of a nurse was hard. The average worked hours a week for a nurse was 48 – 90 hours even though most of the public only worked an average of 38 – 40 hours.

Also many hospitals would not employ married women (this practice continued well into the 1960s in some communities). You could work in hospitals or the public until you got married. Once you were married you would be laid off and could only find work as a private-duty nurse.

The biggest complaints of nurses during this time were, long hours, low salaries, poor living conditions, too few holidays/days off, and job instability. In the late 1950s nurses had had enough and many nurses around the US went on strike. It was reported that in 1957, every nurse at the Virden District Hospital in the Canadian Province, left on strike for three months in hopes to negotiate a pay increase. The hospital fired all of them and in their place hired the former nurses who had to leave the profession due to be married.

Because of this, nobody took the nursing shortage seriously. To add to this, nursing at the time was considered to be: “a natural extension of a woman’s caring and nurturing role as mother, wife, and daughter, and was devalued as such.” The nursing shortage was getting so severe that the government announced that new hospital funding would not be given to hospital boards unless they cold guarantee they had found nurses to staff them, and would not be raiding other facilities to find nurses. The government also recommended that hospitals create pension plans for nurses as a way to encourage woman to work in their facilities. This was not common for woman to have such a privilege and it caught many nurses attention.

A look back at nurses in 1950

Nursing during this time was hard, you either served in war with your life in danger or in a hospital with long growling hours and little pay, or due to being married had to work as a privet nurse which very few people could afford so privet nursing jobs were scarce. I feel that these nurses were extremely strong willed and tough. They had to fight for nursing to be more appreciated and many gave up their jobs in strikes or even lives in war with little recognition to do so.  I am so grateful for what they did. Although at times I still feel that the flexibility and benefits of a nurse still struggle and need improvement, I know that it is much better today because of what these nurses did and how they changed the public view on nursing.  Very grateful for them and all they did.

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