Nursing History Digitization Project - Nursing Education In Nova Scotia



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Victoria General Hospital School of Nursing
Documents Only

The School's Beginnings
The Nursing Program
Residence Living
Program Changes

The Schoolís Beginnings

The Victoria General Hospital was first established in Halifax, Nova Scotia, in 1867.  The hospital acquired a bad Graduation Class 1899reputation and was thought to provide poor medical care.  In 1887 the province assumed control of the hospital and attempted to transform the hospitalís image as a place of poor medical care to a place of active and successful medicine.  To assist in this transformation a nursing school was established in 1890, the first of its kind in Nova Scotia, with the objective of providing the hospital with a disciplined nursing staff who would adhere to standards of professionalism and cleanliness.

First Yearly Report of the Training School for Nurses, ca. 1892

Annual Report 1907-1908, By-Laws and Regulations  

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The Nursing Program

The Victoria General Hospital School of Nursing offered a two year nursing program, which relied heavily on practical experience in the wards with head nurses and senior students demonstrating techniques to the junior nurses.  The student nurses were taught uniform procedures for everything from making beds and caring for sick rooms, to preparing patients for the operating room and disinfecting utensils and were a major contributor to the hospitalís nursing labour.

Procedures to Make an Open Bed

Daily Routine (Mid-Day, 2pm, and 6pm Routine)

Procedures for Taking Temperature, Pulse, and Respiration

Procedures for Cleaning and Sterilization (Rubber Gloves)

Graduation Class 1936In addition to working in the wards at the Victoria General Hospital the student nurses attended lectures on topics such as, the general principles of nursing and hygiene, cooking and preparation of food for the sick, doses and administration of medicine, anatomy, fever nursing, and care of the nervous and insane.  The student nursesí also went on clinical rotations in other hospitals as part of their training.  In 1912, the Victoria General Hospital formed its first affiliation with the Wesson Maternity Hospital in Springfield, Massachusetts where the students received four months of obstetrical training. 

Listen to Christina Patterson; (Victoria General Hospital Nursing Student
from 1925-1928)
talk about her choice of nursing as a career and her training with regard to patient care. (6:10 minutes)

Listen to Christina Patterson; (Victoria General Hospital Nursing Student
from 1925-1928)
talk about the formal nature of the doctor-nurse relationships in the late 1920's. (2:07 minutes)

As the nursing profession evolved, and medicine and technology advances occurred, new courses and rotations were added and old ones were dropped or changed.  To accommodate these changes the program was extended from 2 years to 3 years in 1912.

Twenty First Report of the Training School for Nurses, ca. 1913

Night Nurses on the Steps of the Residence, 1928The Victoria General Hospital School of Nursing held its first graduation ceremony in 1892, graduating eight students, two males, and six females, from the nursing program.  The first to graduate was Margaret Sheridan who received her diploma from Lord Aberdeen, who was the Governor General of Canada at that time.

Christina Patterson; (Victoria General Hospital Nursing Student from 1925-1928) talks about her first day in training, seniority and relations between senior students and probationers, and patient care.

Florence Hamilton; (Victoria General Hospital Nursing Student from 1920-1923) talks about the nurses social activities and off-duty time.

The Victoria General Hospital School of Nursing grew rapidly in size and reputation and by 1896 there was already a two year waiting list for admission to the school.  Those applying to the school applied to the Medical Superintendent for a one Probationary Class 1938month probation period, during which time the candidate was observed for obedience, responsibility, and cheerfulness, and was also required to pass an examination in reading, writing, and simple arithmetic.  If, after the probationary period, the student was accepted into the program they would receive a monthly salary as well as room and board.  After 1940 this transition was marked by a capping ceremony which signified that the student was a bona fide student nurse who had completed the first step to becoming a professional nurse. 

Annual Report 1907-1908, Synopsis of Course and Application Form

School of Nursing Brochure, 1956

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Residence Living

Like other schools of nursing the Victoria General Hospital required all nursing candidates and students to live in residence and adhere to a strict set of rules and regulations, which wereProbies Studying Around a Table, 1955 applicable whether the student nurse was on or off duty.  These rules applied to all aspects of the studentís life and included such things as ensuring that their rooms were tidy at all times, their belongings were put away, and that they were in their rooms by 10pm, unless they were on night duty.  In addition the student nurses had to change their beds regularly and bring their dirty cloths to the laundry at a specific time.  By enforcing these and many other rules, the hospital hoped to instil a sense of professionalism and enhance womanly attributes in the student nurses and if the rules were not followed the student nurse could be punished or dismissed from the program.

Rules of the Residence, 1951

Student Handbook and Constitution and By-Laws, 1958

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Program Changes

Throughout the 1970s the nursing program at the Victoria General Hospital saw a number of changes.  The school moved away from the direct control of the hospital and became a separate Department of Nursing Education with an educational mission, well-developed courses, and a qualified faculty.  Along with this change came the inauguration of the two year training program for nurses, which replaced the old three year training program which had been in affect since 1912.  

In August 1995 the Victoria General Hospital School of Nursing closed due to the decision made by the Canadian Nursesí Association and its provincial affiliates to eliminate the nursing diploma programs, making the baccalaureate degree the minimum requirement to become a professional nurse.  The Victoria General Hospital School of Nursing was the last hospital based nursing school to close and the longest running nursing school in Nova Scotia, graduating more than 4,700 nurses through the years.

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