In a time of national emergency, citizens work to make a difference any way they can. The Sisters of St. Agnes are no exception as evidenced by their efforts to train nurses during both World Wars.
St. Agnes School of Nursing opened in Fond du Lac in 1910 as the need for sister nurses increased with the opening of CSA’s second hospital, St. Anthony in Hays, Kansas. When a nursing shortage occurred during the First World War as well as growing patient loads at St. Agnes and St. Anthony Hospitals, the decision was made to open St. Agnes School of Nursing to lay students in 1917.
A generation later as the United States entered World War II, CSA again stepped up and took part in the Nurse Cadet Corps program to help train nurses for the war effort. Two classes of students enrolled each year in the government-subsidized accelerated program. CSA’s program was initiated by Sister Digna Desch, who served as director of the school from 1922 to 1944 and 1947 to 1951. Her successor, Sister Juliana Kohne, continued the program even as she dealt with reduced numbers of staff physicians and nurses in the hospitals, a lack of prepared teaching personnel, and skyrocketing enrollments. Despite these hardships, between 1943 and 1948, St. Agnes School of Nursing graduated 240 cadet nurses, many of whom served with distinction in the armed forces and veterans’ hospitals.
This article is reprinted from the February 2019 issue of Reflections and Connections. Click here to read the rest of the issue!