Publication Date


Document Type

Masters Thesis


School for Social Work


Women soldiers-Interviews, Military nursing, World War, 1939-1945-Participation, Female., Korean War, 1950-1953-Participation, Female, Vietnam War, 1961-1975-Participation, Female, Combat, Women nurses


This qualitative study explored what could be learned from the narratives of female military nurses in World War II, Korea and the Vietnam War. There is very little literature regarding the experiences of female military nurses and scarcer data about women military nurses performing their roles in combat arenas. The sample was comprised of twelve female military nurses who volunteered for their military service during World War II, Korea and/or the Vietnam War. The sample was a well-educated group of nurses who achieved officer rankings while serving and, though the vast majority of the nurses were unspecified as to race, it is speculated that the sample was white. The major findings for the majority of these women were the experience seemed to have been a very difficult but overall positive experience. Specifically, all those who answered this question describe in vivid detail what they had to cope with but were unable to say how they coped; and even into the then (time of the interview) present they conveyed a sense of being haunted by experiences with certain patients. Yet when asked how their involvement in the military affected their lives, they speak to having gained self-confidence and self-reliance and discovering the strength of the human spirit. The participants stated that although they were not able to articulate when asked how they coped with being in a combat arena, the suggestion that maintaining a sense of family was important through communication with family or creating a family in the military. Similarly, sharing a sense of solidarity with others that shared their commitment was the most frequently cited reason for volunteering to enlist. This solidarity and the sense of being a part of family while in the service both convey that the sense of connectedness with people that share the same goals is important to coping. They also suggest that being actively engaged with learning about their new culture is important to coping. Regarding further study, it would be important to replicate this study to see if the findings could be sustained. However, regarding replication a more diverse population should be attempted for the sample. Also for consideration would be the suggestion that perhaps more needs to be done with military women regarding raising consciousness about the importance of maintaining a sense of connectedness to others and coping.




iv, 62 p. Thesis (M.S.W.)--Smith College School for Social Work, Northampton, Mass., 2012. Includes bibliographical references (p. 59-62)

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