With National Nurses Week quickly approaching, Gloria Stephens beams with excitement.
As she sits in her sunroom on a cozy chair with a deep blue, flower-patterned crocheted blanket laying on top of it, she reflects on her time as a nurse at one of the oldest hospitals in Halifax.
The Victoria General (VG) Hospital School of Nursing, part of the QEII Health Sciences Centre, opened in 1887 and has witnessed many medical revolutions throughout its history. The nursing alumni have been an integral part of the QEII’s history and, although, the last class was in 1995, the alumni have met every first Tuesday of the month since 1920 — they’re the only nursing alumni in Canada to continue this tradition.
Gloria is a proud alumnus who graduated in 1953 and retired in 1996. Her 46-year nursing career has come with several milestones — from the polio epidemic to being part of the QEII’s first neurosurgery team, Gloria has accomplished a lot throughout her career.
“I’m 92 years old now, and I am still enthusiastic about my nursing profession,” she says. “I was very fortunate in my career; timing means everything and I [was in] the right spot at the right time.”
This month, the National Nurses Week celebrations commence from May 8 to May 14. It’s also a special time because it marks the 103rd anniversary of the VG Hospital School of Nursing Alumni.
For Gloria, National Nurses Week is a chance to commemorate nurses’ dedication to health care and the impact they’ve had on patient’s lives during their careers from the late 1800s to now.
“The VG Alumni was the start of many things and they’ve given a lot to the hospital,” she says.
The VG Hospital School of Nursing Alumni have also been long-time supporters of the QEII and have supported many care areas and medical advancements through donations to the QEII Foundation.
“The alumni have done tremendous things,” she says of both their vast careers and generous philanthropy.
Gloria shares that nurse alums contributed tremendously during the First World War. She pays tribute to Margaret MacKenzie and others who helped in the war and later became notable figures in Nova Scotia’s Public Health Department.
“The VG Nurses Alumni have dealt with many critical things that have happened in Halifax and Nova Scotia, such as the smallpox epidemic, the First World War and also World War II,” she says.
Currently, Gloria volunteers at the QEII by maintaining the VG Hospital School of Nursing Archives. She believes this year’s Nursing Week not only celebrates the accomplishment of nurses during their career but also spotlights the history of nursing in Nova Scotia.
“There’s a lot of nurses, male and female, who served in the armed forces during both of those wars,” she says. “We’re very proud of that.”
Gloria admits that nurses don’t get enough recognition for the hard work they do, and she hopes this year’s National Nurses Week in the province will highlight the incredible work nurses have done throughout the century.
“We don’t sing our praises enough,” says Gloria. “There’s so much that the VG nurses have done – it’s an important part of history at the QEII and across the region.”
To learn more about the QEII Foundation or to make a donation in support of health care at the QEII, visit QE2Foundation.ca