The Cadet Nurse Corps was established across the country between the years 1943 and 1948 to help with the demand for nurses during the war. According to authors Willever and Parascandola, “124,065 nurses were graduated from the Cadet Nurse Corps, making the Corps one of the largest and most fruitful Federal nursing programs in history.” (Parascandola and Willever, p. 455)
The need for nurses was at an all-time high after the United States entered World War II and as a result, nursing leaders were trying to find solutions to supply enough nurses for the war. The need for nurses increased as the war went on, but other higher paying jobs were taking women away from the nursing profession. Consequently, the Public Health Service created in June 1943 the Cadet Nurse Corps to focus on improvement of nursing education and recruitment of more nursing students. If admitted, a student would receive scholarships that covered tuition and fees, as well as a monthly stipend. The expectation for the nurses was to graduate in 30 months, as opposed to the usual 36 months, and perform nursing services for the duration of the war. The schooling was broken into sections. The first nine months the nurses were known as “probies.” “Junior cadets” were in the middle of their schooling and attended classes as well as applying their learning in the field at actual hospitals. During the final training period, the students were known as “senior cadets” and would be placed where nurses were needed.
Like many other universities across the country, the University of Utah was part of this program. In the very first semester of the program, 150 women registered. To help boost morale and get the nurses excited for the upcoming program, a representative from the national nursing council came to the University of Utah and spoke to the freshman students at Kingsbury Hall. The representative, Mildred E. Newton, spoke about the urgent need for 65,000 nurses and the chance to serve the country they loved.
From the very beginning, the University of Utah was extremely supportive of the Cadet Nurse Program and the students in it. In the Utah Chronicle on September 23, 1943, Mrs. Hazelle Baird Maequin, an assistant professor of nursing education at the University of Utah, said, “The 15 nurses in the cadet corps are going to make up an important part of the wartime life on the campus this year.” The nurses were not kept from students; the university wanted them to be recognized and supported. This was shown when Carlson Hall, a dining room and living area on campus, was renovated to accommodate the nurses in the program. The hall normally would fit around 76 people, but after a few renovations and converting the hall to cafeteria style, 154 people could fit in the hall. Most of those 154 were nurses in the program, and all of the nurses lived at Carlson Hall.
A lot of the nurses as they went through schooling at Utah would receive hands-on training at nearby LDS Hospital, and most of the time when they were there, their living arrangements would change as well. Once a nurse completed her 30 or 36 months of training, she would receive a certificate of nursing and would be placed at either LDS hospital or one of the nearby local hospitals as a civilian nurse, or she would be placed in one of the branches in the military to serve as a nurse there.
Overall, the Cadet Nurse Corps program at the University of Utah was a great success. The university made the nurses’ time in school comfortable and enjoyable by providing places to live and places to study and eat. The University of Utah also made sure that the Cadet nurses were included in student activities on campus, and made sure that other students were aware of the program and its importance. This program helped improve nursing education, as well as prompting federal aid for graduate school studies for nurses. The effect is still felt today around local and national hospitals and nursing now is a respected profession. Modern-day nursing definitely got a kickstart because of this program.
Tyson Aldridge is a senior at the University of Utah. He is majoring in journalism communication.
“Campus Trains Cadet Nurses,” Utah Chronicle, September 23, 1943.
Helen Chamberlin, “Registration Swells Despite War,” Utah Chronicle, September 23, 1943.
“Nursing Official Outlines Program,” Utah Chronicle, October 21, 1943.
Walter A. Shead, “Continuation of Nurses Training to Provide for Thousands of Qualified Hospital Assistants,” Pleasant Grove Review, September 21, 1945.
“War Affects Carlson Hall,” Utah Chronicle, September 23, 1943.
Kathleen Emerson Britton, “U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps,” Rochester Regional Health.
Parascandola, John and HeatherWillever. “The Cadet Nurse Corps, 1943-48,” Public Health Reports 109 no. 3 (May-June 1994): 455-457.