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Alberta’s registered nurses mark a century of service with travelling historical display

Fort Macleod Health Centre site manager  Angela McLeod visits with College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta Shannon Spencely in front of one of the displays.

Fort Macleod Health Centre site manager Angela McLeod visits with College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta Shannon Spencely in front of one of the displays.

A display that was part of a travelling exhibit of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta.

A display that was part of a travelling exhibit of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta.

A display that was part of a travelling exhibit of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta.

A display that was part of a travelling exhibit of the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta.

A collection of nursing instruments with an old-style cap.

A collection of nursing instruments with an old-style cap.

A century of registered nursing in Alberta was celebrated Wednesday in Fort Macleod.
The College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta brought a historical nursing display from its museum and archives Wednesday to Fort Macleod Health Centre.
The display is making stops across the province to celebrate 100 years of registered nursing in Alberta.
“There were people who provided nursing type care and nursing type services before our organization came into being,” association president Shannon Spenceley said. “There’s been people since mankind organized into villages who provided care to others.”
Lacking, however, were standards, consistent educational programming and an understanding of what the public could expect from someone called a nurse.
That began to change in 1915 when a small group of women who decided it was time for Alberta to follow a movement toward mandatory registration of nurses under way in other parts of the world.
“They said the public is best served when nurses are educated to meet consistent standards, when they’re regulated to make sure they meet them over time, and that when someone identifies as a nurse the public has the right to expect certain things from them.”
That small group of nurses started working with government to implement mandatory registration of nurses.
“It was a tough slide,” Spenceley said. “Government wasn’t sure it wanted to go there. Any time you introduce administrative layers government gets suspicious.”
Government officials of the day weren’t sure mandatory registration of nurses was needed, expressing concern it would lead to increased costs.
“But even at the time it was becoming pretty clear it was important to have some kind of consistency,” Spencely said. “When it really started moving forward was when the United Farm Women of Alberta got involved and said it was necessary.”
That led to provincial legislation being passed in 1916 to form the Alberta Association of Graduate Nurses.
The organization started with just seven members and the College and Association of Registered Nurses of Alberta today is the regulatory college and professional association for more than 37,747 registered nurses.
The display included nursing artifacts including instruments, caps and war-time medals, an interactive digital media centre and banners commemorating different eras from the past 100 years.
“We’re hoping to raise awareness about our organization, about the rich history of Alberta nurses,” Spenceley said of the travelling history display. “It is a rich history. Alberta’s history and nurses’ history go hand in glove.”
Nursing offers exciting and varied career opportunities and continues to be a popular choice.
Spenceley teaches nursing at the University of Lethbridge and said the program has at least three applicants for every seat.
The profession primarily attracts women but a growing number of men are becoming nurses.
While standards and education have improved since 1916, the requirements of people seeking to become nurses has remained consistent.
“I think you need to be somebody with intelligence, a commitment to hard work and public service, and a commitment to study and continuously learn in your profession,” Spenceley said. “I think those are the essential components.”

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