PhD Graduates – Karosas

Laima Karosas, PhD
Spring 2004

“Nursing in Lithuania 1935-1945: The Legacy of World War II”

Abstract: Lithuania, a small country located on the eastern shore of the Baltic Sea, was the first country to break away from the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. With the reestablishment of Lithuanian independence, the door was opened to collaboration with professional colleagues from all over the world. Hence, a study of the history of Lithuanian nursing with emphasis on one of the major transitional periods, 1935 to 1945, became possible. Official documents, records, correspondence and journal articles pertaining to Lithuanian nursing education and practice in the Antakalnis archives and the Mažvydo National Library, Vilnius, Lithuania, and Rockefeller Archive Center in New York were reviewed. Strauss (1991) described the study of social worlds and defined them as professional or occupational groups that shared a common activity. Five aspects of the social world of Lithuanian nursing were examined in this study. Significant individuals and events that contributed to changes in Lithuanian nursing were described. By the end of the 1930s, political tensions in Europe increased and exploded into war. The period during which Lithuania regained its independence (1918–1940) provided insight into the development of Lithuanian nursing and the trends present when Lithuania was threatened and involved in war. The work begun by Lithuanian nurses after World War I from 1918 to 1940 resulted in guidelines for nursing education and practice. The development of Lithuanian nursing was similar to the development of nursing in the United States. However, with increasing political tensions from 1935 and occupation by foreign powers from 1940, Lithuanians were no longer free to conduct their own affairs. An analysis of Lithuanian nursing beyond 1945 revealed that no trends were continued from the interwar period (1918–1940). Lithuanian nurses were led down paths chosen by, and agreeable to, occupying military regimes. An incidental purpose of this study, the first compiled history of Lithuanian nursing with emphasis on 1935 to 1945, provides a basis for future comparison with nursing development in other Eastern European countries.