Our first 100 years #

The major programs of WSNA – Legisla­tive and Health Policy, Nursing Practice and Educa­tion and the Economic and General Welfare of Nurses – all had their roots in the early efforts of nurses to regulate nursing practice, raise the standards of nursing, standardize and regulate nursing schools and respond to the first nursing shortages.

Prior to 1908 #

In the late 1800’s, the quality of nursing in the United States was extremely variable and in disarray. There were no standards for entry into practice. Persons could​“nurse for hire” as so-called​“practical or domestic nurses” or practice as​“trained nurses.” The latter were educated and received diplomas from hospital schools of nursing, while the former had either not attended or not gradu­ated from any type of formal program. By the 1890’s there were approx­i­mately 3,000 trained nurse gradu­ates of 432 schools and an estimated 42,500​“domestic” nurses. Even the​“trained” nurses were from programs that were widely diverse in their length of study and content and physi­cians often dictated nursing duties and methods of training. In short, nurses themselves held little or no control at all over the devel­op­ment and standards of their rapidly growing profession.

Nation­ally, early pioneer leaders such as Adelaide Nutting proposed the forma­tion of a national nursing organi­za­tion to elevate the standards of nursing educa­tion, estab­lish a code of ethics, and promote the inter­ests of nursing. These first efforts to organize were through the existing alumnae associ­a­tions of the training schools and, in 1896, the Nurses Associ­ated Alumnae of the United States and Canada was success­fully formed as a national associ­a­tion of profes­sional nurses. It was later renamed the American Nurses Associ­a­tion (ANA) in 1912. 

The story of the Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion (WSNA) is very similar. As early as 1898, attempts were being made to start local nurses associ­a­tions and in October of that year, the first county nurses associ­a­tion in Washington was organized in Spokane. In the next few years, local associ­a­tions in Seattle, Tacoma, Whatcom County, and Walla Walla rapidly followed. In 1908, a group of fourteen of these coura­geous, far-sighted nurse leaders officially formed the Washington State Graduate Nurses Associ­a­tion (WSGNA). The WSGWA was renamed the​“Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion” in 1940. 

It was concern for the public’s welfare that prompted these nurses to organize. They formed the WSGNA so that working together, nurses could effec­tively achieve the following goals: 

  • Bring into one compact organi­za­tion the nursing profes­sion of the State of Washington,
  • Extend, advance and elevate the standards of Nursing Practice (Nursing Practice and Education),
  • Secure enact­ment and enforce­ment of just nursing laws (Legis­la­tion and Public Policy),
  • Promote friend­ship among the nurses (Networking and Mentoring),
  • Guard and foster the material inter­ests of nurses (Economic and General Welfare and Profes­sional Devel­op­ment of Nurses), and
  • Enlighten and direct public opinion.

In order to achieve their objec­tives, two factors were involved: 1) they knew they must regulate the practice of nursing and 2) raise the standards of nursing practice.