Navy opens nursing schools

At the end of World War II, in August 1945, a three-year nursing program was re-established in Guam by the US Navy. It was called the US Naval Hospital School for Native Nurses and then renamed the US Naval Hospital School of Nursing in 1946. Students were from Guam, Yap, Palau, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Rota, Saipan, and American Samoa. The program was run with strict military discipline. This program reflected the first of many regional approaches for meeting the nursing needs of the Pacific Basin.

In September 1947, the Trusteeship Agreement between the United Nations and the United States led to the establishment of the Trust Territory of the Pacific Islands (TTPI) which consisted of the Northern Marianas, Yap, Palau, Chuuk, Pohnpei, Kosrae, and the Marshall Islands. Guam, a possession of the US since the Spanish American War in 1898, became a territory of the US in 1950 with the signing of the Organic Act. The US Department of Interior assumed administrative responsibility for the TTPI, Guam, and American Samoa.

The political changes led to the closing of the Guam Memorial Hospital (GMH) School of Nursing with the last class graduating in December 1950 and the remaining student nurses from other islands being relocated to the Trust Territory School of Nursing in Chuuk.

With the closing of the GMH School of Nursing in 1952, there were no formalized training programs on Guam for nurses until January 1962 when a Guam School for Practical Nursing was established. At least one class had graduated before Typhoon Karen, in November of that same year, destroyed the classrooms and a large portion of Guam Memorial Hospital. Also in 1962, the Nurse Practice Act was passed into law, and Guam became a member of the national organization, the National Council of State Boards of Nursing.

By Sally Tsuda, RN, MSN and Karen Cruz, RN, MPH

For further reading

Guerrero, Oliva. “Growth of Nursing on Guam.” Pacific Profile 3, no. 4 (May 1965): 14-15, 41, 43-44.

Guevara, Claudia. “I Pattera.” Glimpses of Guam 15, no. 3 (1975): 60-63.

Haddock, Robert L. A History of Health on Guam. Hagåtña: Cruz Publications, 1973.