World War II took the lives of approximately 3% of the entire world’s population in the 1940s—so it’s no surprise that life-saving efforts became a top priority at the time. Military hospitals were built throughout the war front as well as the home front. Brigham City, UT became home to one: Bushnell General Military Hospital. The hospital impacted Brigham City in various ways, including the lives of many individuals who served and were served there.
Many employees at the facility were locals, which boosted Brigham City’s economy. They needed the skills that varying individuals possessed because Bushnell was innovative in their patient care. Just one of many examples is their developing a new type of prosthetic limb that used plastic instead of metal, which soon spread to other amputation centers and became more commonplace in the medical field.
They were also innovative in their treatment procedures. Bushnell had a significantly low death rate, which is accredited in part to their experimental use of penicillin. Penicillin was new to the medical world and proved effective for many patients, allowing doctors at Bushnell to save many more lives and limbs than they would have been permitted under other circumstances.
Once soldiers were healed, the focus shifted to rehabilitation. They had band performances by amputees, visits from celebrities such as Helen Keller to boost morale, and a general sense of community involvement to aid in all steps of this process.
The hospital also provided facilities for mental health treatment. The psychiatrists were well-trained and used the best and newest treatments they had at the time. However, many patients had already suffered from mental and emotional illness before the war, and seeing combat brought them to severe extremes. The psychological knowledge of the time was not sufficient to help many of them, and they ended up in hospitals for extended periods of time. However, due to many experimental treatments, they made advancements in psychiatric treatment that continued to be implemented afterward.
After the war, the hospital was closed in 1946. The buildings were remodeled and turned into the Intermountain Indian School: a boarding school for Native American children. It was successful for several years but was closed in 1984 and the land was given back to the city. The buildings have mostly been demolished now, but Brigham City has experienced the long-lasting effects of the hospital’s influence. Bushnell brought the community together in a way nothing else could—it was a chance for a small town to band together for a good cause in a troubling time.