Barbara Agard Kiser

I entered the U.S. Nurse Corp after graduation from Palo Alto High School (California) in June of 1943. I was one of 40 girls selected for this first class. We spent the first three months at Mills College in Oakland, California. We were then transferred to Highland General Hospital, also in

After completing our "probie" period, we were given our U. S. Cadet Nurse Corps uniforms in December of 1943. Although Highland Hospital was a 3 story, 300 bed, facility, they only kept 2 floors open, due to the fact that there were no men to work there during the war. I can only remember one fellow working in the whole building. Our hospital  "blue" uniforms did not include the white aprons from earlier years, so as to save on laundry staffing.

Highland Hospital had an extensive Communicable Disease Ward at that time, and girls were sent from Los Angeles to Highland to take classes in Communicable Diseases. We had excellent teachers. Shifts were for 8 hours. We worked all the time - 7 days a week. We were paid $8.00 per month! The first 6 months of our senior year, we received a $5.00 per month raise. Considering that all of us had gone through the "great Depression" of the 1920's and 1930's, we thought we were rich!!!

We had to autoclave bedpans; move oxygen tanks to the bedsides; make surgical packs for sterilizing; wash, dry, powder, insert surgical gloves into folders for sterilization. You should have seen the cast room. The walls were spattered with plaster of Paris, but there was no one to wash down the walls during the war! We student nurses had to take care of the patients

Highland Hospital sent us to other hospitals for experience, each time for about 3 months. I worked at a Tuberculosis Sanatorium, which was connected to Highland Hospital - a face mask was compulsory. You could never remove the face mask for fear of contracting the disease.

The first year you got a star to pin on the shoulder epilates, so when you were a Senior, you had 3 stars! When a nurse had a day off, you were required to wear your uniform, and you were only allowed into certain areas in the city of Oakland, (they wanted to protect us) as the Navy also had a base there. The servicemen would salute us, not knowing what rank we were! Wow! I
felt like General Eisenhower!

I was selected as Senior class president. In 1946, I was the class Valedictorian, and got to call each girl to the stage to hand out their R.N. pins. I remember the first line of my speech: "We are proud to be the first class in the State of California to have completed the full three years of
the United States Cadet Nurse Corps program. "

I graduated on a Thursday, got married to my Marine that next Sunday, and took my State Boards the next Tuesday! I worked as a nurse for 46 years, but my nursing continues to this day. My Purple Heart husband of 67 years lost his leg on Iwo Jima in 1945.

Many thanks to the U.S. Government for this training.

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Cadet Nurse
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Highland General Hospital School of Nursing, Oakland, California
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Portrait of Barbara Agard Kiser
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