The Story of Nora Valleau and her career in nursing

If you happen to be browsing through the Museum of Health Care’s online database in the nursing category, you might notice that a lot of the artefacts therein– 185, in fact– were donated by one Nora Valleau.

Sepia portrait photograph of Nora Valleau in her graduation uniform with rolled nursing certificate and bouquet of roses; print is mounted on two mat boards; the first is only slightly larger than the print; the second is almost as large as the paper folder which closes over mat boards and print; folder has faint "ragging" design.
Nora Valleau, Kingston General Hospital School of Nursing graduate. Class of 1928 graduation photograph–Museum of Health Care 996028017

Valleau was born in Bancroft, Ontario in 1907, on her family’s farm. After moving to Trenton in 1917 and going to school there and in Warkworth, Valleau started her studies at the Kingston General Hospital School of Nursing in 1925. At this time, the new nurses-in-training were required to supply their own uniforms, so Valleau’s mother Elsie made hers. After a three month probationary period, Nora Valleau took an exam and finished fourth in her class with a grade of 94%.

A large framed nursing school diploma issued by Kingston General Hospital School of Nursing; Valleau's name is written in calligraphy at the centre; a large round red seal appears at the bottom centre; on the lower left are seven handwritten signatures; on the right are three more; frame is stained dark brown; wood surface is slightly rounded.
Nora Valleau, Kingston General Hospital School of Nursing Class of 1928 nursing school diploma. Museum of Health Care–996028063

Valleau and her fellow student nurses received no pay for the twelve-hour shifts they worked for seven days a week, but there was also no tuition or residence fees to be paid, and food and laundry was also covered. After three years of training at Kingston General Hospital, Nora Valleau finished with a final grade of 95% and graduated in 1928. Soon after, she became a registered nurse. The Great Depression followed, and work was difficult to find, but Valleau worked at KGH, the military hospital, and as a private duty nurse.

Kingston General Hospital Nursing Graduate class of 1928 class ring. Museum of Health Care–996028107

Valleau would travel back and forth between Brighton and Kingston during this time so that she could earn money and also nurse her mother, who died in 1932. Through the rest of the Depression and World War II, she worked eight hours private duty shifts for seven days a week to support herself. She made brief forays into hospital and sanatorium work in the 1930s, working at the Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester, New York, and the Tuberculosis Sanatorium in Hamilton, Ontario. She retired at the age of seventy-two, having loved her work and touched the lives of countless patients, some of whom she cared for for many years. Nora Valleau passed away in her ninety-fifth year, in August 2001.

To discover more of the Nora Valleau Collection click the button below.

Shaelyn Ryan <br>(Collections Technician/Assistant 2022)
Shaelyn Ryan
(Collections Technician/Assistant 2022)

Shaelyn Ryan is a recent graduate of Queen’s University, having completed her Bachelor’s degree in History in 2021, and is returning to Queen’s in the fall to pursue a Master’s degree in History. Either as a Summer Student or Work-Study Student through Queen’s University, Shaelyn has helped catalogue and research many of the museum’s collection of artefacts as a Collections Technician (since 2018). 

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