NURSES TRAINING 50 YEARS AGO . A University Assignment in 2015 .

Today on Facebook I saw an unusual and intriguing request:

“Good morning, I am a nurse … in Boston MA … who is going for my BSN and one of my assignments is to interview a nurse who was educated in the 1960s. Would you be willing to answer a few questions for me? Please let me know. Thank you in advance.”

 Facinated, I replied. Her response was as follows:

The assignment is:

Interview one nurse that was educated in the 1960(s) in the United States, and one nurse that was educated outside of the United States and compare your findings:

Summarize information about:

academic courses (list of major courses in their curriculum)
clinical experiences (setting, # hours worked as a “student nurse”)
length of nursing program (years& months)
degree or diploma
setting of program (college, school of nursing, day or residential program)
profile of a typical student ( age, gender, race, ethnicity)
profile of a typical Instructor/Professor
cost of tuition

Once Again, THANK YOU SO MUCH!!!

. . . . . 

Well, I had to help out with this fascinating project !

Hi Krystal,

I don’t know how specific I can be, but will do my best . Here we were in 1965.

Graduating Class 1965 -  Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital School of Nursing
                             Graduating Class 1965 – Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital School of Nursing

– I was in the Kitchener-Waterloo School of Nursing from Sept. 1962 – to end of August 1965.
We had 2 weeks off at Christmas and one month each summer.
We graduated June of 1965 but remained Student Nurses until we passed our Ontario Registered Nursing exams, end of August, 1965. They were written in Hamilton Ontario, where nurses from all Ontario hospitals gathered in the Armoires and wrote the four-hour exam.

Ours was a three-year, Diploma Program wherein we resided in residence attached to the hospital.
– The classrooms were in the basement level of residence.
A well-lit, concrete underground tunnel painted white, wound its way from residence, under the manicured hospital grounds, under the Chronic Care Wing and through the Hospital Laundry into the main hospital. I felt like Cherry Ames heading along that tunnel, to the cafeteria or to and from work on the wards .

We wore blue/white pin-stripe cotton dresses with white collar & cuffs; a heavily starched white pinafore-type apron, brown nylons and tie-up shoes with clunky thick heels about 1 1/2″.
– The first 6 months was our probationary period at the end of which those of us who completed it successfully were rewarded with our capping ceremony. That was a big deal for us. We could then wear our stiff starched, white cotton cap that meant we were officially student nurses. The new uniform also included white hose and white shoes. Gone were the ugly, stigmatizing brown.
– Our hair had to be off our collars and kept ‘tidy’ in a compulsory hairnet.
– Our finger nails were to be kept trimmed and clean.
To ensure this was accomplished, the Director of Nursing (D.O.N.) and our instructors trolled the hallways, the elevators and wards and checked. If we did not meet the strict uniform criteria, we were sent back to residence to correct the situation.

7 am – compulsory ‘chapel service’ each morning – a prayer & brief couple of songs accompanied on the chapel organ in a rotating basis by piano-playing student nurses from all three years.
7:15 – Breakfast in the hospital cafeteria.
7:30 am – on the wards or in the classrooms.

I believe we worked only days the first year – 7:30 AM to 3:30 PM – initially only classroom, then combination of classroom and ward.
Weekly – compulsory Choir Practices.

In our second and third years we worked all three shifts – D – 7:30-3:30; Hs – 3:30-11:30; N – 11:30-7:30. ‘Report’ and ‘Rounds’ added 1/2 hour to each shift.
We had one weekend off a month.

We were responsible for half a ward – I forget how many patients that meant – 8-10.
That meant the entire patient care for each patient on your half ward
– a full bed-bath alternating days, a partial bath the other.
– Bed linens were changed every second day with a complete bed make-over. Alternating days draw sheets and pillow cases were changed as well as any other item that had any soil. Bottom and Draw sheets had to be pulled tightly to prevent wrinkles, thus preventing bed sores.
– All garbage was to be removed, bedside tables, fresh water, tissues and the call bell were to be readily accessible to each patient.
– Patient Care also meant IV monitoring and changing, respirators, dressing changes, catheter and bag changes prn (oh, that is medical-speak for ‘as required’), admissions, discharges, Post Op monitoring, calls to doctors, recording and communicating new orders, charting for every patient, and of course, ’rounds’ at the beginning and end of each shift, and On & On … you know. I was always an hour late leaving because that hour I spent doing the charting that I was unable to finish during the 8 hour shift.

Excellent Patient Care was the highest priority. That meant you did whatever had to be done – No nurse or student nurse was ever heard to utter, “That is not my job.”
In third year we were given the Head Nurse experience – mainly on Evening and Night shifts.

There was no tuition, no cost to Ontario Schools of Nursing in the 1960’s.
In fact, for manning the wards we were paid the princely sum of $15.00 a month. For most of us, we learned to live on that. Meals were free to students in the cafeteria, but everything else we paid for. That meant we bought our own tooth paste, tampons/pads, bought a movie ticket and or a modest meal at The Chicken Nest in downtown Kitchener (a 3-4 mile walk from the hospital), and anything else we wanted or needed, all with $15.00.

Residence Life was amazing. We met each evening in the lounge on one floor, or all piled into a 3-bed dorm to chat, laugh, mimic our instructors, and compare notes on our experiences of the day.
I was a ten-hour train ride from my home in North Bay Ontario so missed my family. These bonding sessions in residence made the difficulties of training much easier to bear. There was always someone you could talk to. Students who were open to a visit or a chat left their residence door open a bit.
I was in a 2-bed room with a nursing student from western Ontario. Luckily, she and I got along well. We liked and respected one another. We did have different close friends in nursing, but remain close to this day.
We had strict curfews. In by 10 PM every nite. One 12 o’clock curfew per week the first year which increased to 2 – 12 0’clock curfews the next year. A housemother sat behind a desk in the residence entrance to ensure that everyone who had signed out for the evening was signed-in, in a timely fashion. You can imagine the trouble some of got into trying to buck the system. In my second year I was sent home for two months for breaking curfews.
Our DON taught that “Ladies wear gloves and never wear pants.”. So we had to leave residence attired in skirts, dresses, gloves. You can imagine that the slacks dropped down from under our skirts and the gloves were pocketed as soon as we were a safe distance from residence.

Our class just celebrated its 50th anniversary as nurses. Over the years a large core of us have gathered each year, some gather every 5 years, to have lunch together. The anniversary years we gather for a 3 day get-together. And here are some of us 50 years later …

Some of the  Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital, School of Nursing, Graduating Class 1965 - at their 50th Reunion in Kitchener Waterloo Ontario, Canada, May 9-11, 2015.

Some of the Kitchener-Waterloo Hospital School of Nursing, Graduating Class of 1965 – at their 50th Reunion in Kitchener Waterloo Ontario, Canada.  May 9-11, 2015.


Anatomy & Physiology
Ethics – we were made aware that this course was perhaps the most important aspect of our training. It was taught by our Director of Nursing.
Psychology 101
Sociology 101
Practical Nursing
– began with good old ‘how to properly make a patient’s bed’ with precise mitered corners, and top sheets folded down a precise 10″ from the top of the bed.
– how to do a bed bath, back rub, pericare, toilet a patient
– body mechanics involved in turning, lifting a patient, etc
– proper body alignment to ensure adequate comfort & blood flow
– all the required tasks that were to be done to standard to ensure comfort & excellent patient care
Operating Room Procedures & Experience
Psychiatric Affiliation – 3 months in an out-of-town ‘Ontario Hospital’. An incredible, unforgettable, eye-opening experience (probably the most memorable part of my three years, excepting our unyielding rules).

The second and third years we had 3 month rotations in each department, including our own Psychiatric ward and Emerg.

Kitchener-Waterloo was a community of two cities that had grown over the years to be one large community with separate political entities.
The hospital served the two cities as well as the surrounding rural towns, villages and farms – most of which were Old Order Amish, or more modern Mennonite communities.
Kitchener is about 100 miles west of Toronto, along our 401 Highway; about 45 minute drive from Toronto Pearson International Airport.
Waterloo is on the north end of Kitchener.

Student were 17, 18, 19 years of age when they arrived out of High School with their Grade 12 or Grade 13 diplomas.
During the course of the first year, 2 senior students were admitted – one in her late 20’s, one in her late 30’s, I believe.
I think I am accurate in saying that in our 1962-65 School of Nursing, the entire 3-year population was white; mostly WASP, with a few Mennonite students.
There may have been a few Roman Catholic girls, but I don’t recall that. One student in our class was a member of the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter Day Saints.
Our graduating class – Class of 1965 had two male student nurses. The Class of 1964 had one male student. They were some of the first male students in the province.
Four of our 46 students in our graduating class has died.

PROFILE OF TYPICAL NURSING INSTRUCTOR (well, in our hospital, anyway!) in 1965
Well, this is easy.
– Every one of our instructors, as well as our Director of Nursing, was a late-middle-age, spinster. I believe, despite their rigid outlook, we did receive an excellent nurses training.
– One story: Our Anatomy Teacher was a quite elderly spinster. She taught each chapter of our anatomy text, then sent us back to our rooms with assignments. However, she changed her routine when she came to the chapter on ‘Male Anatomy’. Not a word of instruction.

We were told to: “Read the chapter on your own.” That was our learning experience about the male anatomy!!! The next day she resumed with the following chapter, with nary a word on the previous assignment.

– Our Psych & Sociology classes were taught by a professor who came to us from Waterloo Lutheran University, now Sir Wilfred Laurier University.
– Our Choir Director was the Organist from St. Andrew’s Presbyterian Church in downtown Kitchener.
Though there was no formal mention of any religious affiliation with our School of Nursing, our Director of Nursing, Rhano Beamish Reg.N., felt music, ethics, the psych and Soc. courses were important for giving the students a well-rounded education.

Robertson Linda 1965 Nurses Grad Photo_2   Linda 2013

Since this memorable 50th reunion was one of the few I missed over the years, this is me, then & now. Linda Robertson Paupst – 1965 & 2014

I nursed, part-time,  until 2012. I will be 50 years married in 3 weeks.

Oooooh – that is another point. I was expecting a baby my last year in training and had to keep it a secret and hide the pregnancy until the end of August. In that era, student nurses were not allowed to marry nor be pregnant. My husband and I were married secretly June 5, 1965, the same evening I graduated from nursing.  Those ceremonies were 2 PM in the afternoon. Had the D.O.N. known, I would have been expelled. So, my new husband and I lived separately – he in an apartment, me in residence, until August 28, 1965, until after I wrote my Reg.N. exams.

We now have five children and ten grandchildren.

So, that is it!

Krystal, if you have any other questions, don’t hesitate to ask. And I would love to hear from you in the future – let me know how you do in this assignment.

Lovely to meet you Krystal. It was my pleasure, and even fun, to recall the memories.

Good Luck

Linda Paupst

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 


2 thoughts on “NURSES TRAINING 50 YEARS AGO . A University Assignment in 2015 .

  1. Read this account with interest. Well written and you certainly included so many interesting tidbits. Can’t believe the comparisons that will be made for current graduates .

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