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Massachusetts State Governor Charlie Baker has signed legislation recognizing the services of the U.S. Cadet Nurses, student nurses who provided care in civilian hospitals while registered nurses were serving overseas during WWII. A plaque commemorating the Cadet Nurses will be placed in Nurses Hall in the Massachusetts State House (named after the statue of an Army war nurse erected in honor of the women of the North after the Civil War).

Created by an act of Congress in 1943, the US Cadet Nurse Corps was formed to address the nurse shortage that had become acute with the onset of WWII. Cutting the training period for nurses from 36 to 30 months, nursing students in the program became senior Cadets during the six months preceding their graduation and served in hospitals with the same duties as graduate nurses. According to the American Hospital Association, cadet student nurses helped to prevent the collapse of civilian nursing care during World War II.

Former public health nurse and erstwhile Cadet Betty Beecher—who recently celebrated her 96th birthday in lockdown—is delighted and proud of the long-awaited notice: “My first thought – just think, years from now, my grandchildren’s children can point to the plaque and say, ‘My great-grandmother was a Cadet Nurse!” As a student at Massachusetts Memorial Hospital School of Nursing in Boston, Beecher served in the Corps at public health service marine hospitals on Staten Island and in Boston, caring for wounded Coast Guard and Merchant Marine servicemen with head injuries and loss of limbs.

In a speech marking the legislation, Beecher said, “The students met the most vital needs and prevented the total collapse of the health care system. Without us, it would have resulted in a sick and demoralized nation. And by assuming greater responsibility than ever thought possible, we elevated the status of women and of the nursing education.”

For more details on this story, visit the Patriot-Ledger.

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Koren Thomas
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