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.”
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 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