Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

Registered Nurse to Rear Admiral: A First for Navy Women

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

Registered Nurse to Rear Admiral: A First for Navy Women

Article excerpt

Registered Nurse to Rear Admiral: A First for Navy Women by Estelle McDoniel; Austin, TX: Eakin Press, 2003; 81 pages, $16.95

Geared toward juvenile readers, this biography of the U.S. Navy's first woman rear admiral is fascinating for anyone interested in the evolution of the role of military nurse. With its emphasis on independence, hard work, compassion, and leadership, the book is written to encourage young women to see "that the sky's the limit."

Navy regulations from 1802 through 1920 banned women from American ships of war. This story of the evolving role of navy nurse begins in 1945 on the USS Benevolence, a hospital ship, and leads to the Korean and Vietnam Wars. In 1972, the same year the navy established a task force to look at laws, regulations, and policies restricting the role of navy women, Alene Bertha Duerk and 49 men attained the rank of rear admiral. It was only in 1967, after five years of discussion, that Congress gave the navy permission to promote a woman to this rank.

The description of Duerk's childhood makes clear how her family influenced her character development and values. For Duerk, independence came with her life as a student nurse. Beginning her career as an RN just as the United States was fighting in Europe, Duerk gained experience as a labor and delivery nurse and then as an occupational health nurse. By 1943, the campaign to recruit navy nurses won her over.

Duerk's navy career began at hospitals in Virginia and Maryland. She then volunteered to serve on the Benevolence and sailed to Hawaii, Guam, the Marshall Islands, and Japan. She was on the Benevolence when it processed 1,500 American prisoners of war rescued from Omori and Shinagawa prison camps. …

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