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Public Health Nursing: An Autonomous Career for World War II Nurse Veterans


Nancy C. Barnum, PhD, MSN, Hope College, 11653 Harbor Manor, Holland, MI 49424. E-mail:


ABSTRACT The 1944 G.I. Bill increased accessibility of higher education to male veterans. Less is known about how its availability affected opportunities for female veterans. The purpose of this study was to examine nurse veterans' use of the G. I. Bill at one large public university. Primary sources included archival documents of one large public university as well as articles published in professional nursing and medical journals of the 1940s and 1950s. Secondary sources addressing nursing and nursing education history, and the history of the G. I. Bill provided further context. Historical research methodology was conducted. Findings demonstrate that nurse veterans desired more independence in practice following the war. Archival documents of one large public university show that nurse veterans used G. I. Bill funds to seek degrees in public health nursing. The specialty of public health provided increased independence and autonomy of practice not experienced in hospital based care. G.I. Bill educational funds provided these nurse veterans the means to attain degrees in public health nursing, providing them the opportunity for more autonomous practice.