Weyburn Psychiatric Facility

Weyburn, 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.

Due to 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.

Nurses 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.

Nurses 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.

Because 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 in residence.

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!"