Making Do with Fewer Nurses in the United States, 1945-1965

Victoria T. Grando

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Purpose: To analyze the perceptions that nurses and hospital administrators had about the nursing shortage between 1945 and 1965 and the actions they took. Reasons nurses' wages remained low during this period of shortages and high demand were also examined to expand knowledge of nursing labor during a critical time in nursing history. Method: Historical analysis of primary and secondary sources generated between 1945 and 1965 including: (a) American Nurses' Association's (ANA) central files in Washington, DC; (b) ANA archives at the Mugar Memorial Library, Boston University; (c) official proceedings of the ANA's and American Hospital Association's (AHA) conventions; (d) nursing and hospital journals; (e) ANA and U.S. Government statistical documents and reports on the status of nursing labor; and (g) monographs on nursing, hospitals, the history of women's labor and the history of women in the 1940s, 1950s, and 1960s. Findings: Hospital administrators and nurses disagreed on the causes of the nursing shortage and its remedies in the 20 years after World War II. Hospital managers believed the shortage occurred because many nurses left the work force to remain at home with their families. Nurses, however, identified low wages and deplorable working conditions as the cause. Conclusions: Hospital managers were successful at easing the shortage and controlling nursing costs by employing ancillary workers to replace RNs. Nurses took several different actions to deal with poor working conditions: initiating the ANA Economic Security Program, joining unions, and leaving hospital nursing.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)147-149
Number of pages3
JournalJournal of Nursing Scholarship
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Historical study
  • Labor/management relations
  • Nursing shortages

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Nursing(all)


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