a small city in southern Saskatchewan, housed one of the largest psychiatric
facilities in the province. Opening in 1921, the Weyburn Mental Hospital
was massive, eventually housing over one thousand patients. Nursing
classes at the facility began in 1931.
its sheer size and progressive therapies, the hospital at Weyburn virtually
became its own city. Patients, as part of their therapy, had various
jobs around the hospital. Some patients would tend to the animals that
were used as food. Others would tend to the produce that was grown. Some
would provide grounds-keeping services and others would act as janitorial staff. This
kept patients busy and acted as part of their therapy. Patients felt
that they were contributing to the place where they lived.
were some of the main caregivers in the facility. Their jobs included
working on the wards and providing care similar to that of any hospital. What
made nursing in this facility different is that because most patients were
in the facility long-term, friendships formed between the staff and patients.
had a chance to get to know the patients in this facility well and taking care
of them long-term fostered a relationship that would not have the opportunity
to grow in a regular hospital setting.
nurses at the Weyburn psychiatric facility lived in the nursing residences
on the facility grounds they often became close friends. As such they spent
much of their free time together. Even the nurses that lived in Weyburn
rather than on the facility grounds spent much of their free time with those
It is often
difficult to see mental health facilities in a positive light. However,
the Weyburn institution is a case where living in such close quarters with staff
and patients fostered a rare sense of community. In the Registered Psychiatric
Nurses' Association of Saskatchewan's fifty-year celebration book: Fifty Years
in Review , one nurse who worked at the Weyburn facility recounts his memories: "Best
memories were the camaraderie and the life style at the hospital. The
great numbers of staff and patients all under one roof was a unique community. Rarely
duplicated in terms of associations with every possible type of personalities,
cultures and activities, Great stuff!"