OCTOBER 4, 1945
NEW YORK, Wednesday—For a long time I have wanted to draw attention to the remarkable contribution made by the trained nurses of the United States in this war. Just lately I came across an article that gives some figures and facts which I think should reach as many people as possible. Over 100,000 of the 242,500 active professional nurses volunteered and were certified for the Army and Navy nursing service. There has been a larger number of war service volunteers from the nursing profession than from any other profession. This is not strange, of course, since nursing is naturally the field where trained women would be called upon to a greater extent than from any other field.
I think we should not forget, however, that when this large percentage of our trained nursing force was taken out of civilian life, the burden borne by those left at their usual occupations was increased by almost 50 percent.
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Army and Navy nurses are still on duty in every branch of the service. As of June 30, 1945, 65,216 were still on duty with the services. It is interesting to note the sources from which these nurses were drawn—64 percent of them came from institutions and hospitals, and that is why there has been the great need for volunteers in those same institutions at home during the war. Seventeen percent came from private duty, and anyone who has been forced to have a private nurse in the last few years can readily believe that and perhaps wonder why the percentage is not higher! Five percent came from Public Health; three percent from the comparatively new field of industrial nursing, and the remainder from scattered sources.
Awards and citations have already been bestowed on 964 Army and Navy nurses. I hope that some general recognition can be given to the nurses who served in the war, and that more of those whose jobs were hard and grinding, if not particularly spectacular, will receive some special recognition. For instance, I think of the nurses who moved into the concentration camps of Europe to care for the poor creatures who had spent such long and horrible days under very bad conditions. The working and living conditions must have been horrible for the nurses as well.
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These women know better than most of us what war exacts in blood and pain from all young men, and they will continue to be reminded of it. In veterans' hospitals and in civilian hospitals and homes, they are going to meet the aftermath of war as long as this generation lives. In that respect, therefore, they have a great contribution to make to peace. I hope their organizations will be strong and that they will act not only in the interests of nurses, but take their position as citizens of influence in the affairs of the whole nation.