Last Resort: Hospital Care in Canada
General Hospital nurses, Montreal, QC, 1895
Wm. Notman & Son
1895, 19th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin dry plate process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords: mixed (2246) , Photograph (77678) , portrait (53878)
Keys to History
The first professional nurses trained in Canada studied at hospital nursing schools in the 1890s. In some schools, they were subject to strict rules governing both their professional activities and their general behaviour, similar to military discipline.
At Notre-Dame Hospital, applicants for nursing positions were selected on the basis "of their disposition for dedication and their aptitude for submission and discretion." Moreover, in dealing with doctors, they were expected "to be prudent, discrete and reserved and to make no comment even the least bit critical of anything at all."
All were unmarried and (for the most part) lived at the hospital. They worked long hours under the twofold rule of the sisters and the doctors, and many had only a half day off each week.
This group photo illustrates the mutton-chop sleeves in vogue at the time. White, as can be seen, was already de rigueur. The elegant caps and outfits were no doubt of comfort to patients.
Nurses now held specialized positions in hospitals. Assigned to different areas, they cared for the sick, assisted the physicians and, occasionally, administered anaesthesia.
As care became more specialized in the early 20th century, most major Canadian hospitals opened their own nursing school.
Young women wishing to become nurses were chosen based on their physical health, their propensity for study and their aptitude for dedication.