Traditional Training in Nursing Schools

Georgiana Chartier has no regrets about deciding to become a nurse. She vividly remembers her nursing training at St. Paul's Hospital in Saskatoon: it took three years of clinical training, classes and providing services on the wards for her to get through. She lived in residence, as was required of all nurse trainees, and followed the strict rules imposed on students. Classes were held for instruction on theory and other topics that could not be taught on the ward, but class time was minimal compared to the course work of today's nursing graduates. Students would usually put in ten or twelve hours on wards and would attend lectures in addition. Linda Long, a graduate of Yorkton Hospital School of Nursing, remembers working a night shift and then only having a few hours of sleep if she didn't want to miss her noon lecture. Until the introduction of the Centralized Teaching Program, nursing students, like Georgiana and Linda, took all of their training at one hospital.

Students were accepted to hospital training schools and were immediately put to work on the wards doing tasks such as scrubbing bed pans, washing walls and cleaning linen cupboards. While these tasks were not directly related to nursing, asking questions could get a student into trouble. As their training progressed, students would gradually be given more responsibility for nursing tasks.   Students would perform this work in return for their training. There was no cost to students for training and they received a monthly stipend which basically amounted to spending money.

Most students from this era look back on their training fondly, accepting the menial tasks as simply the first step in working their way up. For others, however, it seemed a militaristic and hierarchical system that needed to be changed.

One student recalls her arrival at nursing school. Francis Stearns, a 1926 St. Paul's Hospital graduate, remembers exactly what she was required to do:

I was to report to the Superintendent of Nurses on August 20, bringing with me: three uniforms, six aprons (length six inches from the floor), six bibs, three collars similar to clerical ones, three stiff belts, three pairs of stiff cuffs, six cotton underskirts, three cotton and three flannel night gowns, three pairs of black shoes, one dozen pairs of black stockings, six pairs of bloomers, three cotton and three wool undervests, two pairs of corsets, one kimono, two pairs of bedroom slippers, a watch and twelve hankerchiefs. All these had to be marked with a printed cotton name-tape and sewn in by hand.

I arrived in the afternoon. The Superintendent took me directly to a twenty-bed dormitory where I met my fellow classmates. There were twenty of us. From the time we arrived until the lights out bell rang, we were very busy girls, putting our uniforms etc., away in our cupboards.