The early years #

During the early part of the 20th century, the health needs in the state of Washington were many and varied. Although the trend was for more hospi­tals, the bulk of hospital nursing service was provided by students and the largest field for graduate nurses was private duty nursing in the hospital and the home. The hours were long and the wages low. In the majority of cases, this meant 20 – 24 hour duty with an average wage of $3-$5 per day. It was also in this period that the need for the visiting or public health nurse became apparent. The first indus­trial nurses were also employed in this era — and indica­tions were that this too would be a consis­tently growing field of nursing. 

As the country moved into World War I, the first experi­ence with a serious shortage of trained nurses became a reality. The need for nurses was compounded by the national influenza epidemic of 1918 and the public demands for the devel­op­ment of public health. These factors placed a heavy burden on the nursing profes­sion. In addition, the scope of nursing practice was expanding with corre­sponding demands for nurses in labora­tory work, anesthesia and hospital staff work. 


Following two years of intense work, the delegates of the third Washington State Graduate Nurses Associ­a­tion (WSGNA) Conven­tion finalize and adopt the original Articles of Incorporation. 


  • WSGNA lobbies the legis­la­ture and achieves passage of the first Nurse Practice Act in Washington state. [This was no small feat in that many legis­la­tors feared that the title regis­tered nurse” would make it possible for nurses to practice medicine, surgery or midwifery. Nurses, however, were deter­mined not to fail in their first organized attempt to set standards and gain status. This was the begin­ning of the active aggres­sive govern­ment relations program that remains an integral part of the Washington State Nurses Associ­a­tion today.] 
  • On April 18, the first Board of Nurse Examiners is appointed by the Governor. The Board consisted of 5 graduate nurses with at least 3 years of experi­ence. In September, the first exami­na­tion is held in Seattle for one appli­cant, George Smith, a graduate of the Annie Paddock School of Nursing (now Tacoma General Hospital School of Nursing), who becomes the first licensed nurse in Washington state. 


As the nation strug­gled with a growing TB epidemic, WSGNA members contribute funds to build a TB cottage at Riverton for the care of nurses who had contracted TB. 


WSGNA helps form the Washington State Organi­za­tion for Public Health Nursing as part of the National Organi­za­tion for Public Health Nursing. 


A national influenza epidemic and World War I produce the first severe nursing shortage. Nurses are urged to join the armed forces and nurses respond in mass. The first WSGNA presi­dent, May S. Loomis, is in charge of nurse recruit­ment for the state. As the shortage and the influenza epidemic peak in local commu­ni­ties, public health nurses, inactive married nurses and non-nurse volun­teers respond to the local call for nurses and serve with courage, deter­mi­na­tion and unbeliev­able stamina. 


WSGNA supports an increase for private duty nurses to $5 per day because of the high cost of living.