On the frontlines: How nurses have responded in conflicts throughout history
The first figures that come to mind as war heroes are undoubtedly soldiers. But oftentimes, it is easy to forget there are others working alongside them in war zones, though behind the scenes: nurses.
During World War I, over 22,000 professional nurses served in the Army, around half of whom deployed to the Western Front. This number rose to 59,000 during World War II, and there are nearly 30,000 nurses in the military today.
Nurses often face many of the same risks soldiers do: they routinely experience extreme stress, isolation, and physical danger while working in war zones and are at risk for PTSD once they return from deployment.
Throughout history, wartime nurses have left a legacy far broader than just saving lives. They have also used their positions to improve the quality of life in society as a whole. Many have blazed paths for racial equality—like Hazel W. Johnson-Brown, Mary Seacole, and Mabel Staupers, who all progressed the integration of Black women into the nursing profession.
Others have advanced education, including Anna Caroline Maxwell and Edith Louisa Cavell, who helped expand nursing education and establish it as a legitimate profession. Florence Nightingale helped advance…