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Cadet Nurse Corps

File:Cadet Nurse Corps Poster.jpg
Recruiting poster for the Cadet Nurse Corps during World War II

The Cadet Nurse Corps program was passed by the U.S. Congress on a unanimous vote and became effective on 1 July 1943. Its purposes were to ensure that the United States had enough nurses to care for its citizens and to free graduate nurses for duty overseas. The supervision of the Corps fell to the United States Public Health Service (PHS), whose duty it was to train 124,000 young women as nurses during World War II.

To become a Cadet Nurse, women had to meet certain age, health, and educational requirements; if successful, the federal government would subsidize the cost of their education and uniforms. In turn, students had to pledge to serve in civilian, military, or federal government services. To participate n the program, a nursing school had to be accredited and affiliated with a hospital approved by the American College of Surgeons. A majority of nursing schools in the United States participated the program. The Cadet Nurse Corps would not admit any new students beginning in October 1945, but those enrolled were allowed to complete their training. The Cadet Nurse Corps program ended in 1948, with the graduation of the last class of students.

An amendment to the law provided that the Cadet Nurse Corps would be a non-discriminatory program. This provision allowed Native Americans, African Americans, and relocated Japanese Americans to enroll in the program.

The Cadet Nurse Corps offered an answer to the shortage of nurses during World War II, and it helped bring changes in how future nurses were educated and trained in the United States. In the corps lifetime (1943-1948), it was the largest training program in the History of nursing in the United States.

Historical perspective

After America entered the war, the demand for nurses increased dramatically, outstripping the supply and creating a shortage. To counter this, the plan was to subsidize over 1,000 nursing schools for a three-year training program after which the graduates could, if they wished, become commissioned officers in the United States Army Nurse Corps or United States Navy Nurse Corps. The war ended before the first Cadets could graduate, although few ever entered the military.[1]

The instructional staff and facilities of the existing civilian schools of nursing needed to be strengthened. The plan conceived to do so contemplated that nursing students would receive accelerated training, and their services would be used even while still in training. Thus, a larger number of graduate nurses could be freed for military service overseas. And it meant that civilian and military communities on the home front would receive substitute-nursing care by student nurses. An emergency measure was considered faster and more economical than reinstituting the Army School of Nursing, or building similar military schools based in hospitals.

Proposed legislation

Representative Frances P. Bolton of Ohio introduced a bill on 29 March 1943 to establish a government program to facilitate the training of nurses. Applicants would be granted subsidization of nursing school tuition, associated expenses, and a shorter training period. In exchange, applicants would pledge to actively serve in essential civilian or federal government services for the duration of the war. In addition, the bill would provide certain funds for participating, accredited schools of nursing. This measure intended to ensure that as many schools as possible would take part in the Cadet Nurse Corps program.

Passage of Bolton Act

The Nurse Training Act (known as the Bolton Act) passed Congress unanimously. The bill was signed by President Roosevelt on 15 June 1943 and became Public Law 74 on 1 July 1943. The Cadet Nurse Corps (originally designated the Victory Nurse Corps) would be administered by the United States Public Health Service (PHS). The Division of Nurse Education was established in the PHS to supervise the Cadet Nurse Corps and answerable to the US Surgeon General, Thomas Parran, Jr.. He appointed Lucile Petry, a registered nurse (RN), director of the Cadet Nurse Corps.

To qualify, the women were required to be healthy, between the ages of 17 and 35, and a high school graduate or a college student. Advertisements for "war job with a future" promised free training with pay, room and board, and uniforms ("There's one for summer and one for winter, and it's hard to say which is the smarter, which you'll wear with more pride"). Applicants were assured that they could wear something "frilly and feminine" for dances, and they would have time for dating.[2]

Nursing schools

Nursing schools throughout the country were informed of the Cadet Nurse Corps program and invited to join. Schools who wanted to take part in the program had to fulfill minimal requirements. They had to be accredited and affiliated with a hospital approved by the American College of Surgeons. The staff and the facilities had to be adequate, but superior standards were not required. Schools with substandard conditions were not rejected, but supported with funds from the Corps to improve their training possibilities. When the Cadet Nurse Corps program ended in 1948,[3] Out of the 1,300 nursing schools in the country, 1,125 schools participated.


  1. ^ Video: Allied Drive On In Italy--Planes Smash Foe In Air Etc. (1944). Universal Newsreel. 1944. Retrieved February 21, 2012. 
  2. ^ "Serve your Country in the "war job with a future"... (advertisement)". Life. 1944-01-24. p. 31. Retrieved November 11, 2011. 
  3. ^ United States Cadet Nurse Corp Exhibit.

Further reading

  • Bonnie Bullough, "The lasting impact of World War II on nursing." AJN The American Journal of Nursing (1976) 76#1 pp: 118-124.
  • Beatrice J. Kalisch and Philip A. Kalisch. "Nurses in American History The Cadet Nurse Corps-in World War II" AJN The American Journal of Nursing (1976) 76#2 pp: 240-242
  • Heather Willever nd John Parascandola, "The Cadet Nurse Corps, l943-48." Public Health Reports (1994) 109#3 pp: 455-57. online