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Nurses in Canada

Published: December 2010

Nurses Graduating

At the end of the 19th century, with advancements in medicine and surgical procedures, technical and personal care services provided by nurses required more rigorous training and further schooling.

Baillie BuildingIn 1903, the nurses' residence at the Kingston General Hospital was one of the first residences constructed to address these concerns. Now known as the Ann Baillie Building, the residence was re-named in honour of a former graduate and devoted Warden of the institution after her death in 1942.

In the late 19th century, the nursing profession was undoubtedly the most difficult field in medicine. The living conditions that nursing students had to contend with were less than ideal, forced to live in filthy wards filled with the incessant noise of patients, surgery and care, while all the time exposed to sickness and disease. Nurses' residences like the Ann Baillie Building offered a clean and secure place for students, a social environment between peers, a place of study and a community within the wider community.

Begbie HallNurses' residences such as Begbie Hall, located in British Columbia, have become national symbols of the development and recognition of nursing as a profession. The ideas and activities that took place there represent a key period in Canadian history from the turn of the 20th century: the transformation of a new nursing profession and the expanding role of women within the new professional health field, and within Canadian society in general.

These buildings are part of five nursing residences that have been commemorated and designated as national symbols including the Hersey Pavilion, St. Boniface Hospital Nurses' Residence, and Pavillon Mailloux.

Nurses_FunNurses were true pioneers in various areas of public life, creating institutions and public services. They founded both religious and secular schools, set up childcare clinics and hospitals, assumed hospital management, taught the young and cared for the sick.

Of course, in these early years, women wishing to break into the medical profession were met with difficulties. The life of Emily Stowe (1831-1903), a national historic person, is a testament to the courage and determination of these early female medical professionals.Emily_Stowe

Following the refusal of her application to the Toronto School of Medicine, Emily Stowe left her hometown to study at the New York Medical College for Women. In 1867, Dr. Emily Stowe returned home to practice medicine but needed further schooling to obtain a medical license in Ontario. Although access for women was always refused in medical establishments, she managed to finally enter the Toronto School of Medicine with her friend Jenny Trout.

In 1883, thanks to a fierce campaign, the first female doctor in Canada managed to open a medical school for women in downtown Toronto. In 1895, it merged with its sister establishment, founded by Jenny Trout, to form the Ontario Medical College for Women which provided a welcoming environment for female students wishing to pursue medicine.

Womens College HospitalThis inspired the formation of the Women's College Hospital some years later. The Women's College Hospital became a leading institution that provided women with medical education, practice, and teaching at a time when such opportunities were non-existent or limited for Canadian women.


Directory of Federal Heritage Designations - Stowe, Dr. Emily National Historic Person http://www.pc.gc.ca/apps/dfhd/page_nhs_eng.aspx?id=1715