Nursing students in Tacoma

The Great Depression: era of unemployment in nursing

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