Nursing Service Hours by Students

In their training, nursing students were put to the test early on. Hospital schools made nurses work hard in return for their training and monthly stipend. In 1957, for example, nursing students at the University of Saskatchewan provided 226,884 hours of service for University Hospital (scan memo). Students spent 19,180 hours in the operating room, 15,424 hours in the delivery room and 5,220 hours doing dietary work. 187,060 hours were spent in "other nursing service hours."

Georgiana Chartier remembers her time as a nursing student at St. Paul's Hospital in Saskatoon:

Well, in 1950, you'd go on wards as a student nurse. It started at Christmas. I started in September, so we were on wards in December. You were a proby. You also took classes, so you could very well go on duty, and then you'd have to go off, go over to an hour or so of class, and go back on duty again. In 1952, they changed to a system called the block system. So we got all our third year classes in our second year. So we were strictly on wards in our last year of training. I guess it was done to clear the way for the next classes so that they could take the block system, so we were out of the way and it had worked very well. So all of our last years were in -- on, like, a practically regular nurse on the wards. I went into the OR as you would call a junior assistant. So that was till I finished training, and then I went on staff at St. Paul's.

You gave bed baths. You changed beds. You would learn to give meds. You did all those things. As you practiced -- you had -- part of your training was -- the classroom training, was your Nursing Arts, I think it was called, and Mary T. MacKenzie taught that class. And you were taught to do all the procedures, etcetera. You didn't change dressings. Dressings at those -- in those days were change -- done by the central dressing room. They did the whole hospital. It's a very different place.

Using nursing students as labour benefited the whole hospital. Nursing students at this time (especially in the individual hospital schools) would have room and board and books paid for in return for their work on the wards. This helped even the poorest of aspiring nurses to gain their education and helped the hospital to keep costs low. This is perhaps one of the reasons that nursing remained a profession open to most who wished to learn. It did not become an education simply for the elite as many professions did with increases in educational tuition. The tradition of educating nurses on the basis of training repayment showed a commitment to the values of the profession.