History of Nursing in Pacific Canada

Working professionalism : nursing in Calgary and Vancouver 1958 to 1977 Scaia, Margaret


Webcast sponsored by the Irving K. Barber Learning Centre. On May 17, 2014, the Consortium and the BC History of Nursing Society co-hosted Dr. Margaret Scaia (University of Victoria) at the annual BC History of Nursing Society Luncheon. Dr. Scaia presented from her PhD dissertation work: Working Professionalism: Nursing in Calgary and Vancouver 1958 to 1977. Changes in women’s relationship to caring labour, and changes in societal attitudes towards women as nurses during the period when they became union members and aspiring professionals, are revealed in thirty-seven oral history interviews with women who became nurses between 1958, a pivotal time in the development of the publicly funded health care system, and 1977, when the last residential school of nursing closed in Calgary. This study challenges the historiography that suggests that nursing education programs in the 1960s and early 1970s were sites of unusual social regulation, and that nursing was a career choice that women made because of the lack of other more challenging or rewarding alternatives. In making these claims Dr. Scaia positions nursing and nursing education, instead, as a form of women’s labour that exemplified employed women’s struggles to promote fairer wages, better working conditions, and as an educational opportunity that opened unusual and largely unavailable opportunities for access to higher education for women and career advancement. This challenge to the prevailing historiography of nursing and nursing education during this period establishes the main thesis of my presentation, based on my recently completed doctoral dissertation. Dr. Scaia acknowledges her supervisors Dr. ME Purkis, Dr. L. Marks, & Dr. A. Lepp, and funding support from SSHRC Bombardier Scholarship. This talk was held at the Vancouver Lawn Tennis & Badminton Club.

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