Nurse Cadets Recognized
The John Knox Village Retired Nurses Group hosted a reception to recognize the 75th anniversary of the U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps. They honored four Village residents who served in the Cadet Nurse Corps, including OraLee Oleson, Joy Cottrell, Jean New and Melva Steen.
The reception was held on July 2 and included the reading a proclamation by Lee’s Summit Mayor Bill Baird as well as a presentation of certifications of recognition.
The U.S. Cadet Nurse Corps operated from 1943 until 1948, and during this time, 179,294 student nurses enrolled in the program. It included an accelerated training curricula, compressing the traditional program of 36 months to 30 months. Successful applicants were eligible for a government subsidy that paid for tuition, books, uniforms and a stipend. In exchange, they were required to pledge to actively serve in essential civilian or federal government services for the duration of World War II.
OraLee joined because she felt it was an opportunity serve the country. She graduated from the program in January of 1948 through the Immanuel Medical Center in Omaha, Nebraska and shortly after, the program ended. After passing the program, OraLee actually had to wait a few months until she was 21 to be a licensed registered nurse. She became a civilian nurse and spent her 41-year career as a nurse, going on to get bachelors and masters degrees, as well as teaching. She was also the director of the school of nursing for Saint Luke’s Medical Center in Sioux City, Iowa.
For resident Joy Cottrell, being a nurse was something she wanted to do since she was 5. She attended nursing school through the Trinity Lutheran Hospital in Kansas City and after completion, served at the Veterans Hospital in St. Louis for about six months. At the Veterans Hospital, she treated not only World War II veterans, but older World War I veterans.
“Really, the Cadet Nurse Corps saved the local hospitals, particularly after the war,” Joy said. “We all went on to work in small hospitals. There was such a critical shortage of nurses and this program truly helped that.”
Melva Steen completed the program as the war ended and then worked at the St. Louis State Hospital. She said being able to use the stipend was a wonderful benefit and allowed her to begin her career as a nurse. Melva went on to work as a nurse in several capacities, earning her masters degree and at the age of 62, received a doctorate. She taught at Saint Luke’s School of Nursing as well as Avila University.