Unprecedented growth, achievement and unrest


Scene from the making of “Mrs Reynolds Needs a Nurse” (1964)

The 1960’s and the 1970’s were a period of unprecedented growth for the Association, both in membership and legislative activities. Civil rights, human rights and women’s rights were prominent issues in our society, as was the race for space and the controversial Vietnam War. Civil unrest and protest were signs of the times. Similarly, future changes to the National Labor Relations Act in 1974 would provide new opportunities for nurses to determine their destiny in the workplace, as well as new challenges for WSNA as a multi-purpose professional organization. Debate and conflict over the appropriate role of collective bargaining in the professional association led to new structural arrangements that met labor law requirements, while allowing WSNA to continue to provide services to all registered nurses regardless of their job title or work setting. WSNA became both the professional association and the labor union for registered nurses in Washington state. These controversies resulted in the formation of a committee to look at the multi-purpose nature of the Association. The committee produced the document “WSNA - What It Is and What It Does,” which speaks to the multipurpose nature and philosophy of the professional association.

At the same time, the advent of associate degree nursing programs at community colleges, and masters degree and certificate programs for nurse practitioners, heralded major changes in nursing education, debate over entry level education and new, more independent roles for nurses with advanced education. Nurses also began to recognize their potential power through collective action, both in the collective bargaining arena and in legislative and political action.

Development of Medicare and Medicaid programs and a clarion call for “access to health care for all” provided new opportunities for nurses to speak out on behalf of their patients. ANA and WSNA supported new financing programs and championed the concept of access to health care for all. The nursing profession was referred to as the “sleeping giant” in health care and by sheer numbers alone - nearly two million nationally at the time - nursing was becoming a powerful force with which to be reckoned.


United States postage stamp commemorating nursing (1961)


WSNA membership is 3,528.


World Premiere of internationally-acclaimed nursing education film, “Mrs. Reynolds Needs a Nurse,” written by WSNA member Dolores “Deo” Little, is held in October in Seattle.


WSNA recommits to helping remove barriers of discrimination wherever they apply to professional nurses.


WSNA Bylaws amended to conform with the (Landrum-Griffin) Labor Management Disclosure Act and ANA Bylaws.

WSNA House of Delegates approves draft revision of Mandatory Nurse Practice Acts for RNs and LPNs to be introduced at 1961 Washington State Legislative Session.

Certification of School Nurses is approved by State Board of Education to be effective July 1, 1961. The approval is the culmination of 8 years work on the part of WSNA members toward certification of school nurses employed by school districts.


After 50 years of lobbying by WSNA, Washington State becomes the 23rd state to achieve Mandatory Licensure for Registered Nurses!

Two-year community college programs provided for in the Health Amendments Acts of 1956 & 1960 allows development of new associate degree nursing programs.


University of Washington opens first nursing Doctoral Program, a “Nurse Scientist” graduate education program leading to the PhD.


Nurse Practice Act is amended to allow LPN to give medications “under the direction of a physician or Registered Nurse.”


Mary Lux becomes the first RN and WSNA Member elected to the Washington State Legislature, one of only 10 women in the Legislature at the time.


The American Nurses Association publishes its first Position Paper on nursing education advocating for the baccalaureate degree in nursing as the entry level into professional practice. WSNA plans workshops throughout the state to encourage discussion and answer questions. Most practicing nurses at the time were graduates of Hospital Diploma Programs.

Nurse Practitioner programs and “Refresher” courses developed to attract nurses back into practice and to relieve the nursing shortage.


More than 1200 of the 1700 RNs in 22 Seattle-area hospitals sign conditional mass resignations in protest of the Hospital Council’s proposed labor contract (ANA had a no-strike policy at that time)....nurses were paid $400/mo and lagged behind teachers and secretaries in pay and benefits. Major improvements in salaries and working conditions are achieved as WSNA wins a new contract. Resignations are rescinded and all return to work. Later in the year, ANA rescinds “no strike” policy.


WSNA supports development of a new Baccalaureate Nursing Program in eastern Washington.


WSNA establishes a special committee to study “the Future of Nursing Education in Washington State.”


WSNA once again introduces legislation proposing Labor Relations rights for employees of non-profit health care facilities, including binding arbitration to prevent strikes. This bill is not enacted.


WSNA Membership grows to 6,311.