7. The Opening of the Centre for Nursing and the Establishment of the Signy Hildur Eaton Chair in Paediatric Nursing Research Oct 1997

Excerpts of an article written in “Alumnae News” Spring 1998 by Eleanor Pask Cl’59

A very impressive ceremony was held in the Garden patio at HSC on October 23, 1997.  Presentations were made by Mr. Michael Strofolino, President and CEO of HSC; Dr. Jean Reeder, Chief of Nursing; Dr Dorothy Pringle, Dean of the Faculty of Nursing, U of T; Mr. Jeff Baine, chairman RN Council; Mr. John Craig Eaton, Chairman of Eatons, and Dr. Eleanor Pask, HSC Nursing Alumnus.

The following is the text of the presentation given by Eleanor Pask on behalf of the HSC Nursing Alumnae.  Eleanor had been asked to speak about the past.

“…….Today is about Nursing Excellence and creating a centre to foster excellence.  I would applaud the efforts of Dr. Reeder and those who have worked so diligently to bring nursing at HSC to this very impressive stage and to make this Centre a reality.  I also express my gratitude, on behalf of the HSC Nursing Alumnae to the members of the Eaton family for their extraordinary generosity.

But, I would like to suggest that since that day in 1875 when Elizabeth McMaster and her dedicated group of women rented an 11 room house for $320 a year, set up 6 iron cots and declared the hospital to be open for admission and treatment of all sick children that nursing at HSC has always been about excellence.

Nursing at HSC has reflected the ravages of history, not only of the city of Toronto, but of society in general.  What have nurses at HSC seen and done?

  • Polio epidemics where children in iron lungs filled the infectious ward
  • Cared for children through a small pox epidemic in 1919 that closed the hospital
  • Nursed children with typhoid fever and other infectious diseases that we don’t even think about any more – but HSC nurses were there – front and centre
  • Cared for the first children to receive transplants – kidney, heart, liver, cornea, heart-lung, bone marrow
  • Nurses were instrumental in the OR when the first Mustard procedure was done, the first Salter procedure…..and so forth

I would go so far as to suggest that for every medical and surgical breakthrough at HSC somewhere there was a nurse.  In fact, I am quite positive that was the case.

Until its closing in 1974, over 2500 nurses graduated from the School of Nursing at HSC.  Nearly 1400 nurses constitute our Alumnae.

I wanted to capture how the nurses felt, so I reviewed newsletters and the correspondence we had received for the newsletter.  I can sum up their feelings by saying unequivocally that they are a proud lot.  They are tremendously proud to have been a part of the history of HSC.  The hospital has been a very important part of their lives and they frequently refer to their close relationship with it.

Since 1974 nurses who worked at HSC came from a multiplicity of educational backgrounds and this diversity further enriched nursing.

Nurses at HSC have been leaders in public health, school education, premature infant care, in meeting the needs of bereaved parents and in nursing research.  In the 1980’s we had a very impressive nursing research department and with this Chair, Nursing research will attain its proper perspective.

Nurses at HSC have always been resilient, moving with changes in health care and society.  Their contributions to the nursing care of children and families are unequalled in the world.  Now nursing will change again as the Centre for Nursing Excellence becomes a reality.”

Note.  The Centre of Nursing Excellence, which is located in room 4734 in the Atrium was dedicated at the same ceremony as the establishment of the Chair.