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St. Martha's Hospital School of Nursing

The School's Beginnings

The Hospital Wards

The Nursing Program


The School's Beginnings

In 1906, St. Martha's Hospital was opened in a rented cottage on West Street, Antigonish, Nova Scotia. The hospital, operated by the Sisters of St. Martha, purchased an additional property in 1907, which would accommodate more patients. In 1911, St. Martha’s Hospital School of Nursing opened when the six-bed cottage on West Street secured a larger location, known as the Harris House. By 1914, the first class of four nurses graduated. The training period lasted three years, until 1969 when the program was changed, with certain misgivings, to a two-year program. In its 84 year history, St. Martha’s School of Nursing saw more than 2,220 nurses graduate from the school.

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The Hospital Wards


The House of Providence, previously the home to the Congregation of St. Martha (CSM) Novitiate, was converted into a maternity unit for the hospital and was in use until 1924. A new building was opened in 1926 which was, along with the St. Martha's School of Nursing, affiliated with St. Francis Xavier University. In 1932 the Province of Nova Scotia built a tuberculosis unit on the ground floor of the hospital, also operated by the Sisters. In 1943 St. Martha's Hospital purchased an additional property to serve as an adjunct to the hospital for convalescent care.


The house opened in 1944 under the name J.L. MacIsaac Memorial Home. Two years later the home was closed and used as living quarters for doctors working at the hospital. In 1950-1951 three new wings were added to the hospital and in 1962 a new building was constructed for the School of Nursing and a Sisters' residence. The provincial government designated St. Martha's Hospital a regional hospital in 1972. In 1986 a new hospital was constructed and all former buildings, with the exception of the School of Nursing, were demolished. The new St. Martha's Hospital was formally opened in 1989. In 1996 the administration of the hospital was formally transferred to the Eastern Regional Health Board.

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The Nursing Program


The St. Martha’s Hospital School of Nursing motto was: Science, Service and Sanctity, and applicants to the school were plentiful. Large classes were often enrolled, and at one time, two classes were admitted each year. When the school first opened, students could enter upon completion of Grade 9. By the mid 1970’s, Grade 12 was the minimum standard.


The Sisters of St. Martha were pioneers of university education and as nursing standards improved by the mid 1930s, St. Martha’s was prompted to realize the need for further education, and in particular for the faculty. Several Sisters obtained baccalaureate degrees, and one, Sister Mary of Calvary, became the first Nurse on Nova Scotia to obtain a Masters Degree in Nursing Education, in 1940. St. Martha’s School of Nursing always supported the position of baccalaureate preparation for Nurses by the year 2001, so it is with a sense of extreme pride that the hospital continues its involvement with Nursing Education through its affiliation with the baccalaureate program at St. Francis Xavier University. The legacy of progress and advancement of nursing education woven over 84 years, will pass on to the  University and their longstanding association will continue the promotion of Christian Catholic values in the education and lives of students in the baccalaureate program.

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* Source: McMahon, Sister M. (Oct. 1995). St. Martha's Hospital; Legacy of the Past, Foundations of the Future. College of Registered Nurses of Nova Scotia. Nurse to Nurse, 23.

© 2005 Mount Saint Vincent University Archives
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