University of Saskatchewan Nurses' College - inception

The University of Saskatchewan School of Nursing changed the face of nursing education in Saskatchewan. Progressive for its time, the school placed emphasis on basic science education and academics; a combination which would later become the norm. The school was founded in 1938, a time when new investments were few due to economic slumps. After Canadian nurses had established themselves as exceptional practitioners during World War I and the 1918-1919 influenza epidemic, grateful patients and families had donated funds. More funds also came through "relief funds raised for the aftermath of the Halifax harbour munitions ship explosion. A major focus of these funds was the establishment of nursing educational programs in teaching and public health at a number of Canadian Universities and the provision of scholarships for qualified nurses".

Lucy Willis, a former University of Saskatchewan School of Nursing Director, wrote a history of the first fifty years of the school. She provides a comprehensive and insightful look at the school's history, even including curriculum changes to show how the school evolved from one of many schools of nursing to the cornerstone institution of nursing education in Saskatchewan. An introduction to the book provides an historical look at the school:

In 1938, the University of Saskatchewan established a School of Nursing and began admitting students to an undergraduate program leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree. It did so with the encouragement and support of the 21 year old Saskatchewan Registered Nurses' Association whose members had petitioned the University a number of times to provide better basic education. It did so also with the support and advice of Dr. W.S. Lindsay, in charge of medical studies at the University and later the first Dean of the Medical College, who had observed that nurses who had a university education in addition to or as a part of their nursing preparation were superior nurses.

The initial program was generic, preparing for first level positions in public health agencies and in hospitals in the clinical areas of medical, surgical, obstetrical, pediatric and psychiatric nursing. From the beginning, the program was science based, academically sound and demanding. The graduates soon build up the reputation of being excellent practitioners of nursing care, and many were offered and assumed leadership positions relatively early in their careers. After 1950 special education in teaching, administration, or public health nursing was added to the basic curriculum, and there followed other program for graduate nurses and the R.N. diploma program. Graduates of all the programs have made substantial contributions to health care in Saskatchewan, other provinces, the northern territories, the United States, are known to have service in Europe, Africa, Asia and Australia. They have staffed hospitals, community health agencies and nursing homes, have worked as occupation health nurses, and as primary care givers in agencies and clinics, have taught in schools and colleges of nursing (Willis: Introduction).

Through a five-year course at the University of Saskatchewan, nurses would obtain a baccalaureate degree in addition to their nurses' training.