Nine enrobed young women, one of them holding a garland to mark their graduation, gaze earnestly at the camera – their seriousness, perhaps, a recognition that they now represent the frontline of public health care against the scourge of tuberculosis.
A generation later, three smiling students laden with textbooks no doubt touting the miracle of vaccinations and antibiotics, navigate around construction workers who put finishing touches on Western’s new Kresge School of Nursing.
These are just two glimpses among the hundreds of images and impressions on display at a new Museum London exhibit that highlights a century of nursing education in London.
Throughout the exhibit, the common theme is that educating nursing professionals was – and is – about public health, bedside care and solid research.
“The 100th anniversary is an important time because looking back does inform the future. Our roots in public health nursing and community nursing are really important because it provided the foundation of what we’re doing now,” said Victoria Smye, Director of the Arthur Labatt Family School of Nursing.
The exhibit opens Feb. 1 and concludes on May 24. A free public reception of all new Museum London exhibits takes place Feb. 2, and Western alumni family and friends are invited to a special reception at this exhibit on Feb. 6.
In 1920, Western first offered a course leading to certificate in Public Health Nursing. Four years later, the school offered a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, with a legacy that continues today.
London has been a centre of nursing education for 140 years, noted Museum London’s Amber Lloydlangston, curator of the centenary exhibit. The profession’s rich history has also included nursing training at London hospitals and through the Sisters of St. Joseph’s nursing order and through Fanshawe College.
The exhibit will show what nursing was, is and might become. “Nursing is changing and has to keep abreast of the times, even if we don’t know what the future holds,” Lloydlangston said.
Many of the items on display come from Western.
In recognition of the university’s contribution to nursing education, one wall of the exhibit is painted Western purple.
“It’s always been a school rooted in tradition but also in cutting-edge research,” Smye said. That reaches from digital health and technology to research on mental health, health policy, women’s health and health in a global and Indigenous context. “We do believe health equity is our nursing mandate for the 21st Century.”
She said one strength of the Museum London exhibit is that it provides fresh understanding of where nursing education has come from, what its strengths are now and where it is going.
For example, visitors will see an old hospital bed from the 1920s, a nursing textbook that emphasizes ‘the importance of dusting,’ and training tools such as a virtual patient used for teaching today’s nursing students.
Visitors can also play a ‘meducational’ board game called Scabs and Guts, with questions such as, ‘Hair is a modified form of what? a) skin, b) toenails or c) string.’
The exhibit also features audio interviews of Western Nursing graduates and educators.
“For people interested in the weird and wonderful bits and bobs that have been involved in medical care, it should be quite interesting,” Lloydlangston promised.