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Short History of Military Nursing : Nursing Programs in U.S. Miliary Branches

U. S. Navy Nurse Corps

U.S Navy Nurse Corps (oversees the U.S. Marine Corps)

In 1811, Dr. William P.C. Barton became the first to officially recommend that female nurses be added to naval hospital staff.[1] However, it wasn't until 19 June 1861 that a Navy Department circular order finally established the designation of Nurse, to be filled by junior enlisted men. Fifteen years later, the duties were transferred to the designation Bayman (US Navy Regulations, 1876). Although enlisted personnel were referred to as Nurses, their duties and responsibilities were more related to those of a Hospital Corpsman than to a nurse.  After the establishment of the Nurse Corps in 1908 by an Act of Congress, twenty women were selected as the first members and assigned to the Naval Medical School Hospital in Washington, D.C.

U. S. Air Force Nurse Corps

The U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps consists entirely of commissioned officers. New members of the Air Force Nurse Corps are required to hold at minimum a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree prior to receiving a commission. Members of the Air Force Nurse Corps work in all aspects of Air Force Medicine and can serve as Flight Nurse in aeromedical evacuation missions, nurse practitioner, and nurse anesthetist.

In 1947 the Army Air Corps became a free standing military branch known as the U.S. Air Force.  The U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps began in 1949 after 1,199 nurses were brought over to the Air Force branch,

The first Chief of the Air Force Nurse Corps was Colonel Verena Marie Zeller (1949–1956). The first two-star general Chief of the Air Force Nurse Corps was Major General Barbara Brannon; she was replaced in 2005 by Maj Gen Melissa Rank. In 2008, it was announced that Colonel Kimberly Siniscalchi would be promoted to the rank of Major General and serve as the Chief of the AF Nurse Corps, thereby bypassing the rank of Brigadier General (1-star).

U.S. Army Nurses Corps

In 1899, the Surgeon General set criteria for a Reserve Force of nurses. The Spanish-American war proved that without a reserve force, there would be a nursing shortage during wartime. On February 2, 1901, the Nurse Corps (female) became a permanent corps of the Medical Department under the Army Reorganization Act (31 Stat. 753) passed by the Congress.  

Nurses in the Army, WWII to Peacetime