Camosun’s new Nursing program launches

In 1979, the Ministry of Education funded a new two-year Nursing diploma program at Camosun with the requirement the college register the first nursing students by fall of 1980.

Thelma Brown was hired as Chair of the new program along with faculty members, Faye Ferguson and Patti Gauchie. This threesome were tasked with developing the philosophical and learning framework for the program. They also determined entrance requirements; liaised with college support services; hired faculty; ordered equipment and lab supplies; and answered the endless questions posed by prospective students, the community and other college departments. All of this in just 8 months!

Thelma was clear that a college program required a major shift in teaching/ learning methods from traditional nurse’s “training.” College students were seen as “adults who bring valuable life experience to the learning environment.”

Thelma Brown, Chair of Camosun’s new Nursing Diploma Program, 1980

The first intake of Camosun’s Nursing program welcomed 125 students ages 18 to 57. Of these, 25 were Licensed Practical Nurses. The primary role of the program was to assist these adult learners to become skilled and knowledgeable graduate nurses who were also confident self-directed learners. To achieve this end, Nursing content was packaged into course modules which students used to guide their learning. Classes and labs primarily served to apply and clarify this learning.

Camosun’s first Nursing program faculty members, 1980
Back Row: Diane Swallow, Carol Champion, Fern Davey, Liz Henry
Third Row: Maggie Nixon, Faye Ferguson, Kim Millar-Lewis, Cathy Kelsey,
Colleen Gibbings, Margo Hughes
Middle Row: Nan Hsieh, Margaret Story, Lynne Crawshaw, 
Minna Aitken, Joy Moore, Joan Douglas, Jennifer Gates, Linda McDonald
Seated: Pam Sherwin, Molly Chisamore, Phyllis Manchester-Duval, Thelma Brown,
Helen Estey, Wendy Cooper
Missing: Patti Gauchie, Julie Martin, Leo DeBruin, Lynda Miller, Liz Friesen, Julie Martin

Camosun’s Nursing program was non-traditional and focused on the unique roles and contributions of Nursing. Rather than viewing nurses as adjuncts of physicians, the program stressed nurses’ caring, supportive and preventative roles. During those first years, Nursing faculty often felt they were barely keeping ahead of the students as they hurriedly developed learning modules while also teaching classes, overseeing labs and accompanying students to clinical practice. It was a frenetic and exhilarating time! Of the first class, 82 students successfully completed the program and were eligible to write the Canadian Nursing Association examinations. Success in these exams, allowed them to become Registered Nurses in B.C.

Today Camosun’s highly regarded Bachelor of Science in Nursing program is offered in partnership with the University of Victoria. Students complete their first five semesters and two practicum terms at Camosun before finishing their degree at UVic.

Story by Faye Ferguson, CCARE Retiree

Comments 3

  1. Thank you for your comment Barb! Faye Ferguson has generously provided us with more information on the start of Camosun’s Nursing program and photos of Thelma Brown as well as the Nursing faculty from 1980. All the best!

  2. I entered Camosun College in 1980 as one of the first students of the two year Nursing Program -I had nursed for 20 years as a Licensed Practical Nurse and returning to school was a huge learning curve! Throughout those two years I received much support from Thelma Brown.
    i understand she has since passed away –
    Following graduation I moved back to Calgary and continued nursing until 2004-
    thank you for this interesting “look back”
    Sylvia Constable

  3. Thanks for the good memories! If Julie Martin reads this, or anyone who knows where she can be contacted, would you kindly post a note? I’d love to reconnect with her, Lori James

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