A district nurse's story

An early nurse in Alberta Kate Brighty went on to become a very influential nurse in Alberta, but she tells a fascinating tale of how she started out as a nurse.

About that time, January of 1919, I received an appointment from the provincial Department of Agriculture to join a group of other instructors leaving for the north. Grande Prairie was to be the centre for a short winter course in various subjects of general interest and usefulness. I was to teach home nursing, bedside care and hygiene. This was my first teaching assignment since graduating from the Royal Alexandra Hospital, Edmonton.

At that time I knew nothing of the far-flung northern portion of the province. Sufficient that one battled with Edmonton's sub-zero temperatures in winter and fought its mosquitoes in summer. Going north was a completely new and exciting experience and with the ardor of youth I boarded that busy and friendly bi-weekly Northern Alberta Railway train. This railway had but little more than four years to its credit, with two northern terminals, one of which was at Grande Prairie and the other across the river north at Peace River Crossing. . . .

It could happen only once - that initiation of the first lecture - the first facing of a group of women. My white starched uniform covered shaking knees.

How attentive and interested those prairie wives and mothers were, plying me with questions and making suggestions arising from their own experiences. Many of these women, defying the elements, had travelled considerable distances to "The Town" that they might attend this short course in household arts.

There was not a little amusement when the question of hygiene arose. It was then that I found myself in deep water, literally, when that old water pail with the family dipper hanging beside it, came under discussion--well! What was to be said about it? So to change the subject I started on what a friend of mine called "outside inconveniences." This simply ended in hilarious laughter. After that I confined my subjects to care of the patient in bed and simple home remedies.

I could never forget them; a group of mature women, knowing far more of the vicissitudes of life than had touched me at the time. Some of these women many years before had travelled with their men in covered wagons, swaying to the awkward gait of oxen and lending a hand to help build a shelter on that wide beautiful prairie--dwellings filled with the warmth that only women dedicated to making a home could create.

An excerpt from, While Rivers Flow by Kate Brighty.
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