Norma Fieldhouse came to UBC as an Air Force veteran. She recalls that when the war ended, UBC – as were the majority of universities across Canada – was encouraging veterans to attend university and remembers the tremendous leap in enrolment one year from 2500 to 10,000 students! As a veteran, medical coverage was paid for, tuition was only $150 a year, and room and board was only $45 a month.
Norma earned her Diploma in Public Health Nursing from UBC in 1947, also earning a certificate in Teaching and Supervision from St. Paul’s Hospital as well as both a bachelor’s degree in History and a master’s in Nursing from Columbia University.
She maintains that although nursing provided an extremely rewarding career, she always had an interest in pursuing History. At the time however, women had fewer options and she had been limited to choosing between nursing, teaching, and office work. In her day, nurses had to wear hair nets and were forbidden to wear lipstick. “Life was restrictive and you had to work very long hours with one night off a week.” She remembers one occasion when she snuck out at ten o’clock (past curfew) and upon return had to walk up all eight flights of stairs for fear that the residence matron would wake from the noise and that she would be reprimanded. “There was a great deal more flexibility in the Armed Forces than there was in nursing!”
Norma was a Nursing Sister in the Air Force in Europe. Through her many years as a member of the Nursing Sisters Association of Canada, Norma has had the opportunity to support the many nurses that have served during war. Canada’s Nursing Sisters have a proud legacy of military service that dates back as far as 1885, when for the first time, Canadian nurses were part of the medical and surgical team deployed to care for soldiers wounded during the North-West Rebellion.
Norma has accomplished much throughout her career in nursing. She was the initiator of a program in nursing at a community college in Kitchener – Waterloo Ontario. She worked in Public Health in both North and West Vancouver. She set up a community clinic in Toronto with NPs and physicians. And for one year after the war, was head nurse at Toronto Western Hospital.
Norma currently lives in Sidney, B.C. and has taken a number of history courses at Dunsmuir Lodge, finally pursuing her interest in history! She plans to attend the upcoming reunion celebrations that will be held during Alumni Weekend this May and looks forward to reconnecting with the School!