Congress established the Navy Nurse Corps (Female) on 13 May 1908. This new group of trained women met the need for a permanent female nurse corps in the Navy and put the service on equal footing with the Army and the civilian medical community.
In November 1908, The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery selected its first crop of 20 nurses, which were dubbed “the Sacred Twenty.” Standards for Navy nurses were high. To be accepted into the Navy Nurse Corps, applicants had to pass a rigorous application and indoctrination program. Applicants had to be graduates of a general hospital training school with at least a two year program and have clinical experience in a hospital. All nurses were subject to an examination of their professional, moral, mental, and physical fitness.
Upon selection, nurses completed three months of orientation and training in naval medicine at the Naval Medical School Hospital in Washington, DC, before being assigned to naval hospitals in Washington, DC; Norfolk, Virginia; Annapolis, Maryland; and Brooklyn, New York.
Since its inception in 1908, the Navy Nurse Corps has grown to include more than 4,000 active duty and Reserve nurses, both male and female. Navy nurses are stationed around the world at military treatment facilities, medical education institutions, clinics, hospitals, and research units. They serve on combatant ships and deploy in support of combat operations, disaster relief, and humanitarian assistance missions. Nurses work in more than 20 different specialties to provide health care to Navy and Marine Corps personnel and their families.
For more information, read The History of the Navy Nurse Corps, a historical essay by Wendy Arevalo, NHHC Communication and Outreach Division.