Ethel Warbinek

Honourary Membership received on April 22, 2017

Ethel Warbinek’s contributions to the development of history-of-nursing-related archival documents online is only one of several major accomplishments and this alone warrants the honour of a life membership in the BC History of Nursing Society. Most recently, in collaboration with our archivist, the more than 200 recordings have been summarized and catalogued, making the list available for our website. It will soon be accessible for researchers, historians, and families. Her current project is to review the cassette tapes and assess their suitability to be transferred onto MP3 files (the latest technology) so they will be more easily used. This process has been a daunting, labour-intensive, time-consuming task that she carries out almost unnoticed.

This collection was started in the mid-1980s for the Registered Nurses Association of BC; the task of taping oral histories was taken over from the association when the Society was formed in 1989. Our new tapes were added to the collection in the RNABC library. Recently, the former RNABC Library was closed and the whole collection turned over to BCHNS Archives. Ethel did at least 20 oral history interviews herself, and has been putting these directly onto CDs. Also of major note, again almost unknown to others, is her assistance with the organization and assistance in summarizing the 222 biographical files of BC nurses to be placed on our website. She did additional research to update existing files, adding new ones.

In fact, carrying out major tasks almost unnoticed is Ethel’s specialty. After co-writing Legacy: History of nursing education at the University of British Columbia 1919-1994, she undertook to organize, make available, and help catalogue the School of Nursing archival documents, ensuring that the original documents became part of the main UBC Library Archives system. In addition, to preserve more of the history of the School and to protect other vital Nursing papers assembled for this book but not suitable for the UBC Archives, she arranged for these to be turned over to the BCHNS Archives, forming an important collection (titled the “UBC Nursing Historical Collection”). She then proceeded to organize and help catalogue these documents to ensure that they are useful to researchers.

As if these three major achievements were not enough, Ethel has served almost continuously on the Executive of the BCHNS since it was first formed in 1989 as an RNABC professional practice group. She served several long terms as president and vice-president, finally retiring, under protest from the members, from executive positions in 2016. For several years now, she has edited each summer issue of the BCHNS Newsletter. Most recently, she has been extremely active with the Society’s Archives Committee; the new Chair of the Archives committee has emphasized how helpful and knowledgeable Ethel has been. All those years, she was concurrently serving in executive positions in other organizations, such as the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing and the Vancouver General Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association. For the past several years, she has been chair of the VGH Alumnae Association’s archives committee, again ensuring that its archival collection, one of the finest in Canada, is properly catalogued and its contents listed or available online. As well, she has served for the past several years as publicity chair and as co-editor of the annual newsletter for its more than 1,000 VGH alumnae members.

Much of her nursing history work has been carried on since she “retired” after a full-time career in nursing education. After graduation from the UBC School of Nursing in 1957, she joined the faculty of the VGH School of Nursing and in 1970 joined the UBC School of Nursing faculty. Her excellence as a clinical nurse and the depth and breadth of her professional practice, made her a great nursing educator, administrator, coordinator, mentor, and researcher. Among other undergraduate teaching innovations, she developed and presented BC’s first television continuing nursing education program; this one-hour show was developed for BC Knowledge Network back in its early days when it first aired provincial continuing education.

She received research funding for some of her clinical work, including a Canadian Nurses Foundation grant to prepare a Clinical Teacher Observation Guide. She wrote many nursing papers on clinical nursing or nursing education research for professional journals. As well, she is co-author of a history of nursing of the RNABC’s Richmond-Delta Chapter (1967-1997) and co-author of two chapters contributed to a major nursing history text published by the Canadian Museum of Civilization.
All this while happily married to husband Rudi and raising five children.

When she retired from UBC, she was awarded the position of Assistant Professor Emerita of Nursing. In 2005, she received the RNABC’s Award of Distinction in Nursing. Her other honours include a UBC Alumni Association Nursing Division Award of Distinction (1997). She received an honorary life membership from the VGH Nursing Alumnae Association in 2001.

In 2019 Ethel was selected to receive the UBC School of Nursing Centenary Medal of Distinction. The award was established in celebration of the School’s one hundred years of university=based nursing education.  Medal winners have brought high honor to the School or to the profession of nursing.

Photo Credit: Martin Dee & Lorand Szaasz

Nomination written by Glennis Zilm and Nan Martin.