Although little is known about the lives of early nursing students at UWO, it can be assumed that with a heavy course load, and their isolation from the rest of campus until 1951, there would not have been a great deal of involvement with the rest of the university before then. Old scrapbooks, yearbooks and photos from UWO and the Victoria School of Nursing in London offer a glimpse into the student life and personal experience of nursing students.

One report from 1955 showed there was a 30.5% dropout rate for students due to household and marriage responsibilities. The report posed the question: Would it be advisable to encourage married students to continue their training? In the early years it was acceptable to put responsibilities in the home first over school or work; however, many women sought the opportunity to focus on academic excellence. This shift supported women’s interests and the growing nursing program at UWO.

 

Traditional perceptions of gender were inescapably part of the early nursing profession and education. The popular image of nurses as illustrated by the artifacts in this case represent nurses as romanticized war heroines, such as Florence Nightingale, or as whimsical angel-like dolls, often taking away from the reality of nurses as serious and compassionate professionals.
   

In the early years, nurses’ uniforms were associated with the required professional image of the nurse. Students as well as the community held this image in high regard, as seen through newspaper articles, and poetry from a 1955 yearbook. These examples demonstrate that traditional uniform was also very important as it linked students to their schools, places of work, associations and rank. As university programs grew increasingly important for career development, less emphasis was placed on rituals like capping ceremonies and wearing the standard uniform.

The artifacts displayed illustrate representations of nurses that still exist today within the public imagination.

Continue Reading About Nursing at UWO

Cap, Ceramic Figurines and Pin Courtesy of Museum London
Stethoscope courtesy of UWO Medical Artifact Collection