The 1930s

The Great Depression: Era of Unemployment in Nursing


Nursing students at Tacoma General

In the early 1930’s, WSGNA Districts reported more nurses, fewer cases and shorter private duty nursing calls. As the situation worsened, nurses turned to other lines of work to earn a living. An “over-production” of nurses and high unemployment led to higher educational requirements, shorter working hours (the 8-hour work day begins!), and general duty staff nursing in hospitals - all of which were viewed as potential solutions to these problems. Toward the end of the decade, advances in education, new procedures in medicine, and openings of new occupational fields for nurses seemed to indicate a brighter future for nursing.

1930

Due to the steadily growing problem of unemployment during the Great Depression, WSGNA districts concentrate their efforts on fund-raising projects to help their members who were on relief.

1931

The University of Washington begins offering supervisory courses at Harborview Hospital. Many nurses become qualified for supervisory and administrative positions.

1932

King County reports that private duty nurses pay averages only $25 per month. In Tacoma, the District collects $394 for an unemployment fund to provide one week’s work for 16 nurses at Pierce County Hospital.

1932

A WSGNA-sponsored insurance program is launched, called the “Nurses Protective Policy.” It is designed to protect the earning ability of nurses during illness and accidents.

1933

WSGNA achieves successful passage of an amendment to the Nurse Practice Act that called for the appointment of a “supervisor “of Nursing Schools to assure the quality of nursing education.

1934

ANA and WSGNA both adopt an 8-hour day resolution.

1935

Hospitals and advances in medicine create a growing demand for more psychiatric and general duty staff nurses.

1936

A scholarship fund is established as a memorial to May S. Loomis, first president of WSNA. The fund, still available to members through the Washington State Nurses Foundation, is specified to be used for loans to graduate nurses for further education.

1938

The first General Duty Nurse Standards of Employment are approved by WSNA’s Board and a resolution is adopted that discourages “affiliation of our members with trade unions or other similar organizations.”

1939

The model of “Team” nursing assignments begins with graduate nurses and practical nurses as the “team.”

1939

The WSGNA Legislative Committee is requested to study the possibility of licensing practical nurses.

Founded in 1908, WSNA is the professional organization representing more than 16,000 registered nurses in Washington State. WSNA effectively advocates for the improvement of health standards and availability of quality health care for all people; promotes high standards for the nursing profession; and advances the professional and economic development of nurses.

More Information...

WSNA Logo
Washington State Nurses Association
575 Andover Park West, Suite 101
Seattle, WA 98188
206.575.7979    |    206.575.1908 fax
© 2005-2014.   All rights reserved.    |    Privacy Policy    |    Site Map

The Washington State Nurses Association Continuing Education Provider Program (OH-231, 9-1-2012) is an approved provider of continuing nursing education by the Ohio Nurses Association (OBN-001-91), an accredited approver by the American Nurses Credentialing Center’s Commission on Accreditation.