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JAMA 100 Years Ago
December 22/29, 2004


Author Affiliations

JAMA 100 Years Ago Section Editor: Jennifer Reiling, Assistant Editor.

JAMA. 2004;292(24):3086. doi:10.1001/jama.292.24.3086-c

In the early part of 1904 the War Department sent out—through various training schools for nurses and through other available means—circulars requesting the registration of such trained nurses as were willing to hold themselves in readiness for government service in case of war. Of these circulars, according to the leading organ of the nursing profession, only six were returned to the War Department up to a recent date; that is to say, only six trained nurses in this country were willing, or took the trouble to announce themselves as willing, to serve their country in case of its need. The requirements of the registration were not onerous. All that was asked was a statement that the nurse would hold herself in readiness and would make periodical reports as to residence and condition of health. In case the services were needed there was the assurance of continuous and fair pay and support, with duties confined to base hospitals, and ample opportunity for interesting and profitable experience. As female nurses are not wanted at the front, the element of danger is practically eliminated from this kind of military service, except, of course, the danger of contagious or epidemic disease, and from possible change of climate. As the American Journal of Nursing says, there is no doubt that in case of war the government would be overwhelmed with applications of volunteer nurses, good, bad and indifferent. The enthusiasm of the moment would be sufficient to insure this. It would be a very different thing, however, if there were a selected list of well-accredited, competent persons to call on in emergency. The saving of expense, disappointment, and even of possible scandal, would be almost incalculable. It is to avoid the possibility of embarrassment by applications from discreditable persons that this waiting list was proposed, and it is, moreover, in the interest of the nurses themselves that they should not be misrepresented by such persons in the case of the country’s need. It is a pity that the trained nurses of the country have not made a better showing of their patriotism and philanthropy than seems to have been the case.

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