In 1899, the Vancouver City Hospital Training School for Nurses opened with eight students. They wore ankle length blue cotton dresses with five-inch linen cuffs, a high stiff bishop’s collar and a long bibbed apron.
By 1911, there were 111 students in the School and they worked long 12- hour shifts with only half a day off a week. In 1915, the “New Nurses Home” opened at 12th Ave and Heather Street, later becoming the Interns Residence. It is still standing.
In 1919, a combined UBC/VGH nursing degree program began, the first such program in the British Empire. It continued for the next 50 years.
The class of 1921 was the first to publish a Year Book and the first student council was initiated by Ethel Johns, principal of the School.
The first white graduation was held in 1929 with students carrying bouquets of fresh flowers, a tradition which continued until the last VGH graduation in 1991.
In the 1930s identifying first, second and third year students became easy because of the distinctive uniforms designed for each year. The School became the VGH School of Nursing and moved into the remodelled former UBC auditorium. VON experience was added to the curriculum as well as a course in TB nursing. The first Asian students were admitted but male students were not admitted until 1972.
1940s - 1950s
In 1943, the candlelight capping service was introduced. As the 1940s drew to a close, the crowded living conditions for students reached a crisis.
A new 500 room student residence opened in 1950 and 162 students moved in. It was finished two years later. The School was relocated to the Residence with classrooms in the basement.
In the 1950s the School was the largest in Canada with more than 500 students. In 1958 the block system of teaching was replaced with an integrated curriculum introduced by Beverly Du Gas. Also in 1958, UBC discontinued the combined program and the last UBC/VGH class graduated in 1960.
1970s - 1990s
In 1971 a one-piece pale blue polyester uniform was introduced on a trail basis and subsequently adopted. The traditional white starched bib and apron was expensive to launder.One member of the 1971 class said – “I will never forget how proud we were of our Broad Bib and Apron…wonderful days.” all students wore white shoes and stockings. The VGH cap remained. Married students were now allowed to complete the program.
By the 1970s students were no longer required to live in residence and tuition fees were introduced. In 1989 a collaborative nursing program was established with UBC School of Nursing. This program was discontinued in 1998 when the school closed after 99 years.
The last VGH class graduated in 1991 and from this point on, students graduated with a BSN degree from UBC. In 99 years, VGH graduated 8,768 students ... a legacy to celebrate and remember.
Receiving a cap after successfully passing the probationary period was a special event shared with classmates and family. A capping dance was often held in the residence ballroom.
Senior Student 1970s
A senior student, wearing a blue uniform, identified by the black band on her cap, providing care to a patient. This uniform replaced the older, traditional white uniform with bib and apron.
Graduation Day Hurrah!
A special event celebrating three years. Graduates are wearing a white uniform, white cap and are holding the traditional bouquet of red roses. Students elected to wear a cap until 1991 when the last class graduated.