Legacy of Nursing at WCH

May 9, 2022

It was not until the late 19th century that nursing was viewed as a respectable career choice for women in Canada. Over the next few decades, nursing remained one of only a handful of occupations open to women. As the popularity of nursing grew, so did the demand for formal nursing education. The Women’s College Hospital (WCH) School of Nursing opened its doors to young women in 1915. By 1930, there were 218 nursing schools operating out of hospitals across Canada. In the 1970s, these nursing schools moved out of hospitals and into colleges and universities to standardize the training of nurses. Today nursing continues to be an evolving field with a growing number of nursing specialties and advanced educational programs. For almost 150 years, many have chosen to train and work in the nursing profession in Canada. This Nursing Week, we want to explore “why nursing?”

For Florence Nightingale, founder of modern nursing, it was a spiritual calling. Others choose nursing because they want to make a real difference in the lives of their community. In 2015, The Miss Margaret Robins Archives of Women’s College Hospital interviewed graduates of the WCH School of Nursing to find out why they chose nursing.

While the responses of the alumnae varied, one overarching theme emerged. Many pointed to the desire to follow in the footsteps of a strong female role model who was a nurse. Whether it was their grandmother, mother, aunt, or older sister, many grew up witnessing first-hand that nurses were hardworking, dedicated, resourceful, compassionate, and caring – in other words, women they wanted to become. For many, the nurses in their families had a great impact on their lives and influenced their future career aspirations.

Today, many young women continue to be drawn to the field of nursing because they are inspired by the women around them.

Lauren Scott, Nurse Practitioner at WCH’s Family Practice Health Centre, explains,

black and white photo of Nurse Frances Hamlin

I decided to enter the nursing program directly from high school as I was passionate about science and really wanted to help people. My grandmother was a nurse. She trained at Women’s College Hospital graduating in 1950. She was a formidable woman whom I had deep respect for. She passed in 2007 when I was completing my nursing training, and I wanted to honour her with the career choices I made. When I became a Nurse Practitioner, I was fortunate to start this chapter at Women’s College and I feel an immense pride to work with such an incredible organization and a special connection to the legacy of nursing with my grandmother.

(photo: Frances Hamlin, Lauren Scott’s grandmother)

Lauren Scott, Nurse Practitioner at WCH’s Family Practice Health Centre

Likewise, Kim Brigden, Registered Nurse at WCH’s Centre for Headache, holds a connection to nursing through her grandmother, who was also a graduate of the WCH School of Nursing. She recalls:

black and white photo of nurse Clair Mackid

Gran, as we called her, briefly mentioned Women’s College Hospital a few times when I was younger because she was deeply involved in all the yearly get togethers, she kept and still fit into her nursing outfit. She always spoke very fondly of the program and all the fun she had with her classmates, many of which she still wrote letters to.

It is definitely very special that I have a connection to Women’s. I think if she was still around today, she would be incredibly proud of me. She always helped me continue my education as best she could and I’m sure she would be so proud to say that we shared this special connection within the organization and profession.
When she passed away, we found her graduation pin that was given to me, and I wear it proudly on my lanyard every day.

(photo: Claire Mackid, Kim Brigden’s Grandmother)

Kim Brigden, Registered Nurse at WCH’s Centre for Headache

While the field of nursing has changed over the decades, nurses continue to make a positive difference in the lives of patients and those around them. This National Nursing Week, we celebrate the ongoing legacy of nursing at Women’s and those who inspire the next generation of nurses.