Hospitals can never seem to employ enough nurses, and the 1970s were no exception. Similar to today, hospitals experienced a nurse shortage “so acute that few nurses experience any difficulty in finding employment opportunities,” a February 1972 article in Hospitals magazine read.

With thousands of dollars spent each year on recruitment, Hospitals deemed it “unusual” that there wasn’t more research conducted around nursing students’ plans following graduation. To this end, the University of Virginia sent questionnaires to degree programs throughout the U.S. to ask them about their post-school plans.

This is where the similarities ended.

In a sharply different approach from today, nursing students — who apparently were all assumed to be female — were immediately asked about their marital statuses. According to Hospitals, this would indicate how much say the students had over their careers.

“Students were asked to indicate their marital status because it was assumed that nurses have a relatively free hand in deciding where and for whom they will work, while married students who follow their husbands have limited control over the city or state in which they will be employed,” the article stated.


The surveys also queried for preferences in location and type of work, among other questions.

With the nursing shortage currently in full swing, H&HN appreciates the fact that nurses enjoy a "free hand" in deciding if they should follow their husbands — or wives.

Pictured: A nursing school graduating class from Everett Community College, 1972. Credit: Chuck Swaboda