The following blog post was written by Museum Curator Dr. Pamela Peacock.
In Canada, the hard work and dedication of nurses is formally recognized during National Nursing Week, the second week of May. International Nurses Day, designated by the International Council of Nurses in 1974, is celebrated on May 12th. This day was chosen as significant because it is Florence Nightingale’s birthday.
For the past several years, the Museum of Health Care has partnered with the Kingston Nursing Education Past and Present group, comprised of alumnae of local nursing schools, to present a public event celebrating Nurses Week. This year the third annual celebration was held at St. Lawrence College, commemorating the anniversary of the nursing program’s foundation in 1973.
Prior to 1973 most training programs were still run by hospitals. These apprenticeship programs began in the late 1880s – Kingston General Hospital and the Rockwood Asylum (later Kingston Psychiatric Hospital) opened their Schools of Nursing in 1888, while the Hotel Dieu Hospital St. Joseph’s School of Nursing began in 1913. Hospital-based training programs were predominant through the 20th century, though universities began instituting nursing programs around 1920. The University of British Columbia was the first Canadian university to have a nursing program in 1919. In the early 1970s the responsibility for such programs was formally transferred from hospitals to the provincial college system in Ontario. Recently nursing education underwent another shift, as nursing diplomas were phased out in favour of B.Sc. Nursing degrees offered jointly between colleges and universities.
Nurses play a critical role in the health care system, providing medical care but also comfort and compassion. Take a moment to reflect on how nurses have helped you or your family members and be sure to let them know how much they are appreciated!
Please enjoy the photos and artefacts we’ve pulled together to highlight nursing history. All quotes were provided by visitors to the Museum.
“My twin 2 year old boys were hospitalized with R.S.U and needed to be in a step down unit. Our nurse recognized that I couldn’t be in two cribs at once to comfort the boys. She asked me what I would do at home. I said I would lay them on the ground on a mattress and lay between them. She promptly ordered the cribs out, and brought in two mattresses, laid them on the ground – once the boys and I laid down they calmed down. She was amazing.”
“All the nurses in —- have taken such good care of me. Because of all their effort I’m a cancer survivor. God bless them all.”
“— was wonderful at my grandson’s delivery. Also, she helped me through a long night of waiting. Thank you for going beyond the call of duty.”
“The nurses in the palliative care unit were Angels of Mercy, caring for my parents like they were their own and also looking after and comforting the 7 of us children. Thank you to them and to others in similar situations who “care.”
“Thanks for giving me my shots and a lollipop.”
“My wife, a nurse, is the most self-less person, always making a difference in strangers’ lives. I’m proud of all nurses.”
“My grandmother, mother and sister were and are all nurses. They exuded compassion, love, caring for others regardless of sex, race, etc. Such a lovely profession – such angels!”
“In January I had a double mastectomy. Lying on the table for surgery. As I lay there I said, “I’m scared.” This wonderful man rummaged under the sheet, found my hand, and held it tightly as I went under. I will never forget that. Thank you.”