Kathleen Ellis - Pioneer of Nurses' College

Kathleen Ellis deserves a special place in the nursing history of Saskatchewan. She is fondly remembered by many as the person to whom we owe the College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan (U of S). What many do not remember, but what Lucy Willis (a later College of Nursing Director) reminds us, is that Miss Ellis received funding and go-ahead for the College of Nursing during the Great Depression.

The 1930's were the years of the Great Depression which, combined with the long years of drought and crop failures, hit Saskatchewan very hard. The Government cut University funding drastically, and, in spite of excellent management, the U. of S. had to limit programs and cut salaries while still incurring a deficit. There were some months when even payroll could not be met without borrowing money. University officials listened sympathetically to the nurses' petitions during those years but they did not have the resources and so could do little to establish a full undergraduate nursing course. Little, that is, until the Association brought Miss Ellis to the scene.

Due to limited cash flow across the board, the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses' Association (SRNA) and the university came to an agreement that Miss Ellis would work part time for the SRNA and part time for the university as head of the nursing school. Each institution would pay half her salary. Miss Ellis would work out of an office at the university, but spend half her time as Secretary-Treasurer, Registrar and Advisor to Schools of Nursing for the SRNA.

To build such a thing from nothing during one of the most difficult economic times the world has seen shows a determination that not many can boast. "For her part, like other nurse leaders of her time, Miss Ellis had tremendous stamina and was willing to work hard and long for the causes she believed in".

One year after the founding of the University School of Nursing, World War II broke out. Miss Ellis was one of the University faculty members who joined the effort on the home front. "Miss Ellis was asked to be Canadian Emergency Nursing Adviser to identify nursing priorities, need for hospital staff, for prepared teachers, student enrolment needs (sic). This took her away from campus for a good part of the school year and she had to recruit substitutes for her teaching responsibilities".

Miss Ellis also served as general secretary for the Canadian Nurses' Association. She became the first president of the Canadian Association of University Schools of Nursing and served on a number of committees, "including one set up to investigate the possibility of instituting eight-hour days for nurses, and another to determine the plausibility of setting up central school for nursing to make better use of the limited number of instructors. This interest of hers was the seed for the development of the Centralized Teaching Program, instituted in Saskatchewan in 1953".

Due to her hard work and determination in creating the College and her success in advancing the nursing profession, the building where the College of Nursing is now housed bears her name, Ellis Hall.