Last Resort: Hospital Care in Canada

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Ward, Hotel Dieu, Montreal, QC, 1911
Wm. Notman & Son
1911, 20th century
Silver salts on glass - Gelatin silver process
20 x 25 cm
Purchase from Associated Screen News Ltd.
© McCord Museum
Keywords:  Architecture (8646) , medical (125) , Photograph (77678)
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Keys to History

In addition to their religious mission, the Hospitaller nuns took on increasing medical and administrative duties. They were responsible for the hospital's internal operations, for discipline and for organizing the delivery of care.

The community's nursing sisters had no formal training but operated within a certain hierarchy. The most experienced became ward officers. Each ward was under the authority of a Hospitaller, seconded by an assistant who rubbed down and bandaged the patients and administered medication. In the late 19th century, assistants were helped by young lay nursing students.

The key position, however, was that of the pharmacist, who reported to the Head Hospitaller. Besides preparing medicines, she frequently visited patients and made ward rounds with the doctors. She was also responsible for making sure that the operating room was kept spotless and the instruments were properly laid out.

  • What

    This is probably the Sainte-Marie ward. Wards of this type were common at the time, with each bed having curtains that could be pulled for patient privacy.

  • Where

    Montreal's Hôtel-Dieu Hospital has been located at the foot of Mount Royal since 1861. At the time this photo was taken, it had more than 270 beds.

  • When

    Taken in 1911, this photo provides a good view of how the wards were arranged at the Hôtel-Dieu. Few changes had been made since the 1890s.

  • Who

    Women were admitted to hospital for many different complaints in those days, but rarely for childbirth.