Photo Credit: VGH SON Alumnae Archives

Helen Saunders, who many will remember as an Instructor in the OR, died at age 97 in Victoria BC. She wished to stay in her home as long as possible, and this was achieved. I recall climbing up the circular stair case to the OR in the evening to practice draping and other OR procedures in order to be prepared for the next morning. One did not want Helen’s disapproval at not being ready. As one VGH graduate said-“I was scared stiff. She was stern and serious.”  My excellent skill in aseptic technique lasted throughout my entire career, thanks to Helen. In later years, she was rather puzzled by the image she created.

Helen was born in New Zealand and the family traveled internationally before settling in Victoria. She graduated from VGH in 1939 and from UBC School of Nursing with a BASc(N), in 1940.  Following graduation she worked in the slums in Chicago before joining the Army as a nursing sister in 1944.  Following the War she took the new Post Graduate Course in OR Nursing at VGH and then the Teaching and Supervision course at UBC.  She was hired by VGH and taught in the School for 11 years before resigning to obtain a Masters degree in Nursing Education at the University of Washington. Helen moved back to Victoria where she worked at the Royal Jubilee hospital as an In-service Education Supervisor.  She retired in 1975 to care for her parents. While in retirement Helen devoted herself to trying to improve available health care and was an integral contributor to the completion of the new Patient Tower at Royal Jubilee Hospital. She was a caring aunt and was fortunate in having many dear friends and neighbours who watched out for her.  It was said she would love nothing more than for all of us to reminisce with fond memories over a cup of Earl Grey.

Sources: Victoria Times Colonist, Dec 7 2014, Amazing Alumni Stories, UBC School of Nursing website.

By Ethel Warbinek