Nursing during 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".
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.
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.
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.