In Honor of National Nurses Week

 by the VA Public Affairs Office


Lucy Minnigerode, R.N., was the first Superintendent of Nursing in VA’s history. In the spring of 1919, she was appointed as the Public Health Service’s first Superintendent of Nursing and oversaw nurses who cared for those afflicted by the 1918-1919 influenza pandemic and returning World War I veterans.  The Public Health Service–along with its sister Treasury Department bureau, the Bureau of War Risk Insurance–was tasked by Congress in 1918 with providing hospitals and medical care to World War I veterans, as a departure from the lifelong residential care provided by the National Homes for Disabled Volunteer Soldiers. In 1919, Mary A. Hickey, R.N., joined the ranks of the Public Health Service and was promoted to Assistant Superintendent of Nursing in 1921.

1935_05_Minnigerode obit_AJN Vol35 No5 p499 3412966-cropped

 Mary A. Hickey was later appointed as the Veterans Bureau’s first Superintendent of Nursing. On August 9, 1921, Congress consolidated all World War I veterans programs administered by the Bureau of War Risk Insurance, Federal Board of Vocational Education, and Public Health Service into one organization known as the Veterans Bureau.  At that time, 300 nurses from the Federal Board of Vocational Education became the initial Veterans Bureau nursing corps.  Eight months later, nearly 60 Public Health Service veterans hospitals were officially transferred to the Veterans Bureau along with 1,422 Public Health Service nurses. Lucy Minnigerode remained with the Public Health Service after the veterans hospitals were transferred.



Mary Hickey remained as Superintendent of Nursing until 1943, seeing nursing care for veterans through two major government consolidations and into another world war.  Hickey organized specialized training for nurses, published often, and was very active in the nursing field. She did much to elevate nurses and nursing as a profession.  Gwen Andrew, R.N., a Veterans Bureau nurse since 1924, took over Mary Hickey’s position as Superintendent of Nursing until the 1946 when VA Administrator Omar Bradley implemented a Department of Medicine and Surgery within VA.  With implementation of Public Law 79-293 in 1946, a Director of Nursing Service replaced the old position known as Superintendent of Nursing Service.  Dorothy V. Wheeler, the first nursing leader with a bachelor’s degree, was appointed as VA’s first Director of Nursing Service effective October 1, 1946.  She served for two terms and was succeeded by Cecilia H. Hauge, former chief nurse at Chicago VA hospital in 1954.

1954_Hickey obit_p1324_AJN3460884_cropped

1946_Wheeler_1st VA Director of Nursing_AJN3457060_croppedPhotos and information are from:

Who’s Who in the Nursing World: Mary A. Hickey, The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 24, No. 15 (Dec., 1924), p. 1209 (article consists of 1 page) Published by: Lippincott Williams & Wilkins

DOI: 10.2307/3409768

News about Nursing  The American Journal of Nursing, Vol. 46, No. 11 (Nov., 1946), pp. 793-802


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