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Vol 38  No 14
May 18, 2006


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Nurses celebrate the big 40

By Sharon Gray

Second-year nursing student Janice Brown (L) models the original MUN nursing uniform; classmates Jonathan Christopher and Amy Mugford demonstrate scrubs commonly worn today. (Photo by HSIMS)

People usually aren’t delighted to turn 40, but for Memorial’s School of Nursing the event is cause for celebration.

“Students today might find it hard to imagine what nursing education was like in the late 1960s,” said Dr. Sandra LeFort, director of Nursing. “Joyce Nevitt was appointed in 1965 to start a university nursing program and three faculty members were hired to teach the first 38 students, who were admitted in September 1966. The first classes took place in one room of the Education Building on the south campus.”

The original uniform for MUN nurses, designed by Prof. Nevitt, was a two-piece, long-sleeved dress in green and white stripes, with beige stockings and brown oxfords. Marilyn Beaton, who joined the nursing faculty in 1973, said that for community health visits, students wore a green raglan and green beret over the uniform.

“At first students wore a white bib apron over the uniform in hospital, but for comfort the dress was soon changed to a one-piece short-sleeved garment with green and white stripes,” she said.

Until 1984, graduating classes wore white uniforms and caps and had a pinning ceremony. “The nursing cap design is a modification of St. Thomas’ Hospital School in London, England, where Florence Nightingale trained,” said Prof. Beaton. “Joyce Nevitt also designed the pin, whose rough edge represents the pitcher plant.”

A master’s in nursing program began in 1982 as a full-time, two-year, thesis-based program; that program has evolved to accommodate different needs, including an acute care nurse-practitioner option. A post-RN program is now delivered entirely by distance to allow nurses in areas outside St. John’s the opportunity to upgrade their qualifications.

Milestones in the School of Nursing’s history include the Nursing Research Unit, established in 1999; and the Centre for International Nursing, formed in September 2000. Since 2000, all nursing students in the province have graduated with a Memorial University degree through what is known as the BN (collaborative) program, offered in St. John’s at Memorial and the Centre for Nursing Studies and in Corner Brook at Western Regional School of Nursing in collaboration with Sir Wilfred Grenfell College.

There have been seven directors of nursing at Memorial during the past 40 years. Margaret D. McLean followed Joyce Nevitt; Caroline White was at the helm from 1984-87; Dr. Leslie Hardy from 1988-1991; Marianne Lamb from 1993-97; Dr. Carol Orchard from 1998-2004 and Dr. Sandra LeFort, an alumna of Memorial’s Outpost Nursing Program, was appointed director Jan. 1, 2004.

Dr. LeFort noted that faculty members Marilyn Beaton, Dr. Shirley Solberg and Dr. Violeta Ribeiro have, at different periods, served as acting directors while external searches took place.

Dr. LeFort is leading the School of Nursing at a time when the provincial government has mandated the implementation of a consolidated model for the administration of all nursing education in the province under the umbrella of Memorial University. “As we celebrate our 40th anniversary, the possibility is very real that the next decade will see the formation of a Faculty of Nursing that will fundamentally change the identity of MUN Nursing. The opportunity exists for all of us together to create an even stronger voice for nursing education and research that will ultimately benefit our students and the health system.”

A commemorative booklet celebrating the school’s history will be published later this month. Other celebratory activities include the 40th anniversary dinner for the MUN Alumni Nursing Chapter on June 2, and a research conference Sept. 29-31. The annual Margaret D. McLean lecture, named in honour of the school’s second director, was held April 6. For further information on 40th anniversary activities visit www.mun.ca/nursing/.

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