Walter Reed Closes

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Walter Reed Closes

The site of training for generations of nurses

By Elizabeth Hanink, RN, BSN, PHN
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After 102 years, Walter Reed Hospital closed its doors on August 27, 2011. The fabled medical center served hundreds of thousands of wounded soldiers since World War I, including 18,000 from the Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts. Although plagued by scandals recently, the hospital’s level of care has never been in doubt and nursing was always a big part of its success. Named after the physician who, along with several heroic nurses discovered the cause of yellow fever, Walter Reed Hospital is most especially known for its care of the wounded.

Nurses and the War Effort

The Army School of Nursing was established there in 1918 to meet the needs of the “war to end all wars,” and its first graduating class of 400 in 1921 was the largest in American history. The school was downsized and phased out in the 1930s.

In 1964, during the Vietnam War, another school was started, the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing, which eventually graduated 1,200 BSN nurses over a 14-year association with the University of Maryland. During that same era the beautiful rose garden was the site of many nurse-patient weddings.

Along with the standard nursing programs, Walter Reed was also home to the Triservice Nursing Research Program, and was a clinical training site for nurse anesthetists and other advance practice nurses.

While its original capacity was 80 beds, recently Walter Reed cared for 150,000 patients per year and was spread over 113 acres. Patients will now be cared for in a combined Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda.

Photo above: Uniforms worn by students of the Army School of Nursing at Walter Reed General Hospital (1918-1931) and the Walter Reed Army Institute of Nursing "WRAIN" (1964-1978). From left, white duty uniform, service uniform and student maroon insignia jacket.  

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