What type of impact would a major war have on nursing?

  1. Hi. I'm curious as to how nursing fared in WWI, WWII, and Vietnam as well as other major wars. It may not come to pass, but I wonder what the impact of war would be on nursing, because before the attack last week, we were warring with people in high places over poor working conditions, inadquate pay and benefits, and lack of respect. As the economy continues to worsen in the USA and globally, one wonders if an all out war may not become inevitable. If a ground war were started over in the middle east and northern Africa, what could we expect in terms of the treatment of nurses and nursing staff both in the warring countries and at home? Does exploitation of nurses increase during wartime? Would a war totally undermine our efforts to strengthen our profession, or would the war increase our strength in the eyes of others? Would nursing and even healthcare systems of various countries collapse under the weight of large casualties in a ground war? Or, would it, as one poster put it, result in anyone, like prostitutes and the like, being solicited for services in the helping professions and civil service. Economically, politically, and socially, what can nursing learn from previous wars in terms of strengthening its position for the future? I'm especially eager to see responses from veteran nurse and medics who have been in major wars.
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  2. 5 Comments

  3. by   JennieBSN
    Yeah, glad you posted this....I was just wondering myself. I'm sure that as this thing escalates, nurses are going to be needed on the front lines. I have been asking every man I know (I say man because I think men generally have a better idea about war than non-military women) if they think the draft will be reinstated. They all say no so far, but I'm still worried.

    If my husband has to go, I'm pulling up stakes and going too. I've already decided.

    Please, all you nurses of the WW2 generation and the Vietnam era, tell us what you saw/think.
  4. by   oramar
    There was a doctor draft. If you were a young doctor you got drafted. There was no way around it. Everyday people had a few ways they could dodge the draft but physicians went. There was no nurse draft. So many young women volunteered for service in Vietnam that they did not even need to ask. I had nurse friends in the service who could not even get overseas duty there were so many volunteers. My cousin enlisted in 1966 and spent the whole 4 years in a hospital in Texas. She never even got out of the USA. The shortage of help came stateside where so many injured people needed care for such a long time.
  5. by   OC_An Khe
    It would depend on how this war evolves, if it results in a prolonged ground war it will resemble WWII more than Vietnam. In WWII, if my sense of history is correct saw the creation of the LPN in order to swell the ranks of Nurses but not requiring the 3
    years of training. The LPN was only supposed to be a duration of the war thing but continued after for many reasons. Vietnam was essentially, as far as nurses went, staffed with volunteers or service in exchange for paying part/all of the cost of nursing school. The Army ran its own LPN schools and had since WWII.
    Whenever the need for nurses exceeds demand one of the common responses was to "dummy down" the profession requiring less education to perform duties that were historically reserved for the RN. IMO we can not let this war lessen our standards of care. There are people who always try to profit from war. We shouldn't let them do it at the expense of the patients in our health care system.
  6. by   bagladyrn
    To get an idea of a nurse's experience in the Vietnam War, pick up "The Healer's War" by Elizabeth Ann Scarborough. It's a fiction with a few fantasy elements, but very closely based on her personal experience as an American nurse in Vietnam during that war.
  7. by   Dave123
    As someone who served in 3 different combat/hazardous areas during my time in the army and all of these being in the medical field. I can say that a large conflict would have a profound effect on the healthcare system as a whole, given its present state. It would be ugly.

    On the other hand from STRICTLY a financial point of view for those willing and ABLE it could be a great bonus. The government hires nurses on a contract basis to staff hospitals over seas, on hospital ships, and state side to care for returning wounded soldiers. The first $80k is tax free and you have little to pay for as they provide most of what you truly need. Of course they do try to get you to join and pay you a lot less and work you twice as much as well as having you do "soldier" things that also take up more of what little time you will have. Not to mention the chance to lose your life. Look at what they did during the Gulf War where they thought the body count was going to be in the 10's of thousands

    Now from a learning point of view. (I must tell you I was one of "those" Army LPNs for a lot of my service. Army LPN school was much harder than my RN school and it was a good one. I often had seen diseases and injurys that even my instructors had only read about. Plus some states let military LPNs sit for RN boards because of that fact.) You are going to learn more in 1 month in a combat area than you will in a year at even a large level 1 trauma center. Bombs, bullets, mines, and the dieases that war inflicts on people tends to create a huge learning curve.

    Now if it came down to a draft of nurses, you should go right down to the local Airforce recruiter and sign up. They treat you better and your survival rate goes way up.

    Just something to think about

    Dave

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