Significant nursing figures (Part 4/5)

We take a look back at some of the significant nursing figures who have helped change the face of the registered nursing profession.

From 1964 to 1998, Provincial Council selected a nurse who did something particularly exceptional for honourary membership, which would make them a member for life, as a symbol of their extraordinary work as a nurse.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5

Rae Chittick

Honourary member, 1966
CARNA President, 1940-1942

Dr. Rae Chittick sought to convince hospital boards to hire nurses who met CARNA requirements for registration, as a measure of public protection and enhanced credibility of their work.

Rae later became the director of the McGill School for Graduate Nurses, revising the nursing program to incorporate a strong base in the humanities, as well as biological and social sciences. Internationally, her influence has been felt in Ghana, Jamaica and Guatemala. With the World Health Organization, Rae developed nursing programs for graduate nurses in teaching and administration. The WHO also asked her to assess nursing schools in Australia and develop a plan to standardize the Australian nursing educational system.

Rae Chittick

Rae Chittick

Geneva Purcell

Honourary member, 1975
CARNA President, 1969-1971

Geneva was a progressive champion of the profession. She developed post-graduate programs to prepare nurses to care for premature babies. In 1957, she piloted a program that allowed babies to stay in the same room as their mother after giving birth, rather than moving the baby immediately to the hospital nursery.

Geneva served as director of nursing at the University of Alberta Hospital from 1962 to 1975. She was one of the founders of the Nursing Reserve, which relieved a shortage of nurses in Alberta in the 1960s. She also established continuing education and specialty courses for registered nurses in response to the severe shortage. Geneva also assessed the quality of programs and services against established standards as a surveyor with the Canadian Council on Hospital Accreditation.

Geneva Purcell

Geneva Purcell

Helen Mussallem

Honourary member, 1982

Dr. Helen Mussallem served overseas during WWII, often in operating rooms under the threat of air raids and missiles. After the war, she became the first Canadian nurse to earn a doctoral degree in nursing.

Helen was the director on a project evaluating the schools of nursing in Canadian hospitals. While unpopular among hospital administrators due to findings of poor educational standards, her report became a landmark in Canadian nursing and health services and lead to major reforms in the profession. Helen also served as executive director of the Canadian Nurses Association for 18 years. She carried out more than 30 assignments in numerous countries, including posts with the International Council of Nurses, the World Health Organization and the Canadian International Development Agency. Britain’s Royal College of Nursing, in honouring Helen, called her “Canada’s most distinguished nurse.”

Helen Mussallem

Helen Mussallem

Ruth McClure

Honourary member, 1975
CARNA President, 1955-1957

Ruth was the first dean of the faulty of nursing at the University of Alberta. Under her leadership, the school earned a national and international reputation for excellence. The school became autonomous and ceased to be a unit of the faculty of medicine. As dean, she established the four-year integrated BScN program in response to the urgent need for new direct entry programs at universities and across the country.

Ruth McClure

Ruth McClure

Ruth was instrumental in the establishment of the school’s masters program in health services administration, the world’s first program for preparing executive-level nursing administrators in a multi-disciplinary program. This program became the prototype in North America in designing programs for nursing executives. Ruth also helped to initiate the school’s nurse practitioner program, continuing education programs and the advanced practical obstetrics program, which drew students from across North America. She served as a consultant to most Canadian provinces, and her leadership in education was recognized with fellowship awards from the Rockefeller Foundation and the World Health Organization.