Thunder Bay

St. Joseph's Care Group celebrates national nurses week, 135th anniversary with commemorative crest

It's been over a century since St. Joseph's Care Group in Thunder Bay, Ont., opened its services in northwestern Ontario and provided education for nurses in the region.

Hospital originally opened in 1884

Rosalie Douglas, Mary Heaslip and Dianne Phillips were school-mates during their nursing school years. Today, the ladies said they still meet for coffee to reminiscence about their days in school together. (Christina Jung / CBC)

It's been over a century since St. Joseph's Care Group in Thunder Bay, Ont., opened its services in northwestern Ontario and provided education for nurses in the region.

On Wednesday, in celebration of national nurses week, officials from St. Joseph's Care Group unveiled a commemorative crest that was preserved during the demolition of a portion of the hospital and saved for the new main entrance on the east wing.

"This day is incredibly exciting for so many people," said St. Joseph's Care Group president and CEO, Tracy Buckler. "Having the crest put in as part of the design of our new wing was one piece of it that we wanted to persevere the St. Joseph's School of Nursing history."

The St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing opened their doors 115 years ago and saw over 800 nurses graduate. The old crest is now located on the floor of the hospital's new main entrance. (Christina Jung / CBC)

The school, which was open from 1904 to 1970, saw over 800 nurses graduate and work in many hospitals and care homes around the region.

"We stored it. It was about 700 kg to store ... and we were able to take it out intact, so we wanted to make sure that we recognized the history, and we designed our new building with terrazzo floors in the main area to be able to put that crest back in where it belongs," Buckler said.

She said she believes it's important to not only understand, but also commemorate the history of the organization and how far it has come in the last century.

"We are not only celebrating the School of Nursing, but we are also celebrating a 135 year anniversary this year. So from 1884 on, we've been providing care and service to our community and our region," she said.

'A wonderful experience' 

Mary Heaslip, Dianne Phillips and Roaslie Douglas all graduated from the St. Joseph's School of Nursing in 1961 and have fond memories of their three year experience at the school.

"It was just a wonderful experience and I would never trade it for anything," Phillips said. "There's so much to say and just to see all the changes that have come since we were in training."

This memory story board is located in the main entrance in the care group's new east wing. (Christina Jung/ CBC)

They said back in their days of school, it was more of a "hands on experience" type of learning, with only about six months of training before you started working as a nurse at the hospital.

"You had your pick of what floor you wanted to work on," Heaslip explained, "we had just a number of weeks of training and we were just put into either the operating room, surgical floor, you name it. We had our seniors on hand to assist us."

"We learned by doing things."

Remembering the 'house mother' 

Today, the three ladies often get together to talk about their fun experience during nursing school, Douglas said, as the nurses lived together in residence during their schooling.

"We'd hear about so and so [who] snuck-in the other night through the tunnel," Phillips remembered.

Mary Heaslip and Dianne Phillips graduated from the St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing in 1961. The ladies lived together in residence during their 3 years of nursing school. Here they are looking at old photos on the new memory story board. (Christina Jung / CBC)

"On Saturday, we always use to go out to Chippewa and we had a 1 o'clock [curfew] so we would be out at Chippewa ... well the dances weren't over until at least 12 o'clock. Well there's no way we're going to get back by one from Chippewa," Heaslip explained, "so inevitably we appointed someone to call the house mother and say the bridge was open so we couldn't get across ... so we're going to be late."

The ladies remember the house mother sitting by the crest on the floor, taking attendance as they came back into the nursing residence, they said, noting the crest itself reminds them of years gone by.

To see the faces of some of the nurses they went to school with on the memory story boards brought "back lots of memories."


To encourage thoughtful and respectful conversations, first and last names will appear with each submission to CBC/Radio-Canada's online communities (except in children and youth-oriented communities). Pseudonyms will no longer be permitted.

By submitting a comment, you accept that CBC has the right to reproduce and publish that comment in whole or in part, in any manner CBC chooses. Please note that CBC does not endorse the opinions expressed in comments. Comments on this story are moderated according to our Submission Guidelines. Comments are welcome while open. We reserve the right to close comments at any time.