Victorian Order of
Nurses services a large part of Alberta
By 1919, the branches
of the Victorian Order of Nurses, while still serving the rural areas, were
limited to Edmonton and Calgary, with an affiliation with High River and
Athabasca. Only Edmonton and Calgary branches existed between 1921 and 1947.
The midwifery issue had remained a concern, and in 1919, the VON permitted
the nurses trained in obstetrics to practise midwifery in remote areas. Other
midwives had been offering their services for many years before this.
In the early years of
the century, there was a terrific population growth in Edmonton. With people
often starting out in tents, there was a definite lack of water supply and
sewage disposal and not enough physicians to meet medical needs. There were
already hospitals in the city but very few nurses who would be able to help
the sick in their homes. The VON was asked to help and the city granted enough
money to hire one nurse. Only a few years later two more were added, one
being stationed across the North Saskatchewan in Strathcona.
1914, based on the number of children being born in the city, a special nurse
was hired to provide post-natal care to babies and their mothers, for up
to a year following the birth. The VON was happy to report a major drop in
the infant mortality rate from earlier years, and showed favourable comparison
with the rest of the country.
Funding was always a problem,
especially during the Depression it was difficult to collect any kind
of fee from destitute families who still needed the help of a nurse. The
branch held tag days, organized rummage sales and bake sales, held dances
and put on concerts. Sometimes they were able to persuade the better off
to make a private donation.
problem for the nurses in Edmonton was accommodation. At one point some them
shared an apartment with a housekeeper to take messages for them. Problems started
when people, knowing where the nurses were, showed up at the apartment looking
for medical help, no matter what the hour. Eventually, in 1930, office space
was rented. And then, because the nurses were often visiting rural areas, there
was the problem of transportation. The streetcar only went so far and the nurses
had to make the best arrangements they could beyond that. In 1923, a car was
purchased which alleviated the problem somewhat, but still left the others on
the streetcar and anything else that was going their way. More cars did become
available through the Kiwanis Club and the Lady Aberdeen League Auxiliary.