I am very lucky that I was able to come to the University of British Columbia’s Nursing degree program that was part of Applied Science in 1961. I was from Alberta and I was graduating from high school at 17 years old. Because of my December birthday, I could not enter a hospital program until I was 18. Alberta Grade 12 was considered equivalent to British Columbia Grade 13 or first-year university, so I entered year two of university in Vancouver at age 17, away from home and family. Scary stuff! The Veteran’s Department covered my education to a certain extent as my father had died in Europe in the war. This made a big difference financially for me and my mother. I was accepted into the UBC School of Nursing and UBC residence. It was all very welcoming and I knew I had made the right decision.
My class size was small and most were from Vancouver, while some of us were from other parts of BC and Alberta. It turned out that Senior Matriculation was not truly equal in BC and Alberta. My first-year nursing courses were all UBC classes and some were very challenging. Some of the sciences were very difficult as they were new content for me, but I made it! Saturday morning 8:30 am nursing classes were also difficult to stay awake for, but I did it! By the time we moved into our hospital classes and experiences at St Paul’s Hospital, I was actually 18 years old. Again, some of us lived in St Paul’s residence, and some travelled in from home.
Our class bonded in a very special way encouraged by our size, our shared experiences and our amazing instructors. The next three years went by very quickly. They included wonderful experiences such as going out with the Victorian Order of Nurses to do Community Care, to Riverview Hospital to experience institutionalized Mental Health Care, as well as time in St. Paul’s Hospital and at UBC.
We graduated in 1965 and set off to our many chosen careers in health care. We have continued to stay close – to have reunions, in person or by Zoom, and now reunions annually for those who can. We gather in Vancouver or Vancouver Island to make it more accessible. Our meaningful years together at UBC Nursing formed long-lasting friendships.
I started my British Columbia Nursing career at St Paul’s Hospital Vancouver in a teaching role, after working in surgical post-op care at the Calgary General. Once I went to work for VCH as a Community Health Nurse in the children and youth program, including schools and youth clinics, I knew I had found my special place. Due to my husband’s Engineering career, I did travel about the province a bit and therefore got to work in other parts of BC as well. Community Prevention programs were my interest, especially youth health. I also was on the board of McCreary Centre Society whose research in youth health provided information for many services for youth.
I still remember being told as a nursing student that “it was better to help people before they go over the cliff than when they reach the bottom” and that is what I wanted to do – prevention. In 1995 I received an RNABC Award for Excellence in Nursing Practice. I also had the opportunity to participate in the Oral History and Preservation Project put together by UBC Consortium for Nursing History in 2015 which is the UBC Library and Archives, so a longer story is there. To me, nursing is a passion, not just a career. Enjoy your upcoming opportunities!!