Nursing during the depression

The dirty thirties was one of the hardest economic times the world had ever seen.

No one had any money; there were relief and bread lines everywhere...Hospitals operated with skeleton staff. Nurses were working at any job they could find, housework mostly, and getting just enough money to keep body and soul together. Not only nurses were affected, doctors and lawyers too. Some were out digging ditches, harvesting where there was a crop to be harvested, farm help, and menial job that would give a little cash. There was "just no money." In 1939, the beginning of the last great war, things began to pick up little by little. Men were joining the Armed Forces. Doctors and nurses were going into Medical Services".

The depression years across the country brought increased unemployment and economic stagnation. Every group felt the economic squeeze. Nurses were no different. "In 1930, the drought, with an average precipitation in Saskatchewan of .53 inches for the year, brought increased unemployment among the nurses". As a result, the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses' Association (SRNA) had to begin to tighten its belt.

All nurses were hit with reduction of wages and some were even let go by their institutions. "The private duty nurse was the first to feel the shock of the general belt tightening. Patients, unable to pay for a nurse, relied on hospital nursing care, or, as in the past, neighbours helped each other and the nurse found her income suddenly cut in half and then continued to drop steadily". Some private duty nurses were fortunate and found jobs elsewhere, but many of them were quite distressed by their unemployment.

The Depression saw massive unemployment numbers in the nursing profession. However, with the beginning of World War II nurses were joining the armed forces or were going back to work on the homefront. Soon the pendulum swung the other way and it was realized that there were not enough nurses; a shortage that reached its peak in the 1940s.
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