History of Nursing Readings:

 Focus on History of Nursing in British Columbia and Canada

Prepared for the BC History of Nursing Society Website by Glennis Zilm and Margaret Scaia

Margaret Scaia
Glennis Zilm


Updated: March 2023


All nurses should know, at least a little, about the history of their profession. Books on nursing history give you a greater understanding of today’s nursing care and biographies of Canadian nurses can be enlightening as well as inspiring and fun to read. Go browsing on the Internet or in your college, university, or public libraries. Look for books you would like to  read.

This “starting sample” can help guide your exploration into the history of nursing. It is directed mainly to nurses who have not done much reading in this area and it emphasizes classic Canadian and British Columbia materials. The list recommends books (and, occasionally, chapters of books) rather than articles available through computer literature searches (such as CINHAL). Many of the books are old, but good history materials do not go out of date, although they may be assessed differently by later generations. The selections and annotations represent our own views and opinions.

You also can look for information on History of Nursing on the Internet. As always with information you get online, you need to keep credibility in mind; much Web information is oversimplified, and some seemingly factual information may be incorrect.

The B.C. History of Nursing Societies entire archival collection, previously located at the School of Nursing University of BC since 1998, was transferred in March 2022 to the University of British Columbia Library Rare Books and Special Collections (RBSC) This   includes 97 reference books and is a little broader than this one and  contains titles that archivists like to have on hand to answer reference questions.  The list of reference books can be viewed by clicking  here.

You can also try the book sections on the Canadian Association for the History of Nursing (CAHN) site and on the Select Bibliography on Nursing History in Canada on the Museum of Canadian History’s website (https://www.historymuseum.ca/cmc/exhibitions/tresors/nursing/ncres01e.html) . As well, an easy-to-use, easy-to-access book site is maintained by the American Association for the History of Nursing (AAHN); this naturally emphasizes American nursing – which, let us tell you, often differs markedly from Canadian nursing.

Note that this list is not in APA format; for example, it uses full first names of authors rather than initials and it is set up for use on the website.  It also is divided into sections that may help you find an area of books that may be of particular interest to you, such as military nursing, biographies of Canadian nurse leaders, or ethics.

If you would like further information or more in-depth discussions or if you want to recommend books that should be added, please get in touch with us through BCHNS’s “Contact Us.”  We love to talk about books.


Gibbon, John M., & Mathewson, Mary S. (1947). Three centuries of Canadian nursing. Toronto: Macmillan. (Out of print, but available in most nursing libraries)

This “old” book is a classic, and the best and most reliable Canadian text on nursing history up to 1945. Most modern historical overviews draw on this one as a basic source.

Baumgart, Alice J., & Larsen, Jenniece. (1992). Canadian Nursing Faces the Future: Development and Change (2nd ed.). Toronto: Mosby.

Although this text now is dated and is getting difficult to find, it remains an excellent reference on the history of nursing. The editors ensured that every chapter dealt with the Canadian historical background and identified historical context important to the topic. For example, the relevance to Canadian nursing of “The Weir Report” (by G.M. Weir, 1932), “The Hall Commission Reports” (Justice E.M. Hall, 1964), and “The Lalonde Report” (Government of Canada, 1974) is incorporated into this text as well as much other significant historical information.

Bates, Christina, Dodd, Dianne, & Rousseau, Nicole. (2005). On all frontiers: Four centuries of Canadian nursing. Ottawa: University of Ottawa Press/Canadian Museum of Civilization.

This important book is not without flaws. For one thing, it has no index, so it is difficult to find specific information quickly. For another, there is no mention of the major roles that Canadian nurses played in international nursing, nor any vignettes that relate to these international nurses (e.g., Lyle Creelman, Helen Mussallem, Beverly Du Gas). Nor does there appear to be any mention of the roles that nurse leaders played in provincial or federal governments (e.g., Alice Smith, Verna Huffman Splane, Ginette Rodger, Anne Sutherland Boal). Nor does the education section mention the challenges in establishing master’s and doctoral programs in nursing in Canadian universities. However, On All Frontiers is an important addition to health sciences history mainly because, as it intends to do, it introduces the fabulous collection of nursing artifacts in the Canadian Museum of History.

Canadian Nurses Association (Elliott, Jayne, Villeneuve, Michael, & Rutty, Christopher). (2013, December). Canadian Nurses Association: One hundred years of service 1908-2008. Ottawa: Canadian Nurses Association.

This large-size, 302-page, lavishly-illustrated book is the history of the national association, with relevant associated political, social, and professional history woven into its timeline. Drawing heavily from the CNA archives (now largely defunct, but some is available through Library and Archives Canada), it was compiled mainly by the three noted historians (including two nursing leaders). It is available in a beautiful, boxed, hardcover edition and was available online through the CNA website.  If you can find a copy it is definitely worthwhile to browse through it.

Canadian Association of Schools of Nursing. (2012). Ties that bind: The evolution of education for professional nursing in Canada from the 17th to the 21st century.  Ottawa: CASN.

Written for the 70th anniversary of the national organization that oversees nursing education, this 36-page booklet briefly examines the historic, political, and social events affecting education of registered nurses in Canada and evolution of the national association.  Although it is not a definitive work, it touches on influences of gender, religion, class, and ethnicity in nursing education. It can be downloaded from the CASN site at  https://www.casn.ca/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/History.pdf .

McPherson, Kathryn. (1996). Bedside matters: The transformation of Canadian nursing, 1900-1990. Toronto: Oxford University Press. 

McPherson is from the history department at York University and is one of the leading Canadian history of nursing scholars. This book is for discriminating readers.

Donahue, M. Patricia. (1996). Nursing, the finest art: An illustrated history. St. Louis: C.V. Mosby.

A “coffee-table” art book of great beauty and merit, this book has gone to three editions, the most recent in 2011. The text has some deficiencies. For example, it is a U.S. work and does not deal well with Canadian or international nursing in modern times. Copies are available in most libraries, and you should browse through it sometime, if only for the pictures.

Canadian Association for the History of Nursing. (1997). Past is present: The CAHN/ACHN keynote presentations 1988-1996. Vancouver: Author.

The Canadian Association for the History of Nursing, a special interest group of the Canadian Nurses Association, invites an internationally renowned nursing historian or expert to address the annual convention. This collection of the keynote papers from the first years of the society was put together by three BCHNS members and provides a fascinating glimpse into the resurgence in the late 1980s and early 1990s of historical research in nursing. Only a limited edition of 200 mimeographed and bound copies were made and the book may be difficult to find; copies are available in the UBC and UVic libraries and possibly other university libraries. A copy is available through the BCHNS Archival Fond in the Special Collections and Books archives at the University of BC.

Books About B.C. Hospitals, Agencies, and Schools of Nursing

A number of such histories are available, and not all are listed here, by any means. However, this section identifies some of the best classic books.  Recently, a wide selection of excellent articles in professional journals also provides access to information from a nursing perspective. The following few suggestions give a wide understanding of what has happened provincially and nationally. For a wonderful list of all or almost all histories of all Canadian hospitals and nursing schools, go to http://internatlibs.mcgill.ca/hospitals/hospital-histories.htm .

Zilm, Glennis, & Warbinek, Ethel. (1994). Legacy: History of nursing education at the University of British Columbia 1919-1994. Vancouver: University of British Columbia School of Nursing.

This history of the nursing program at UBC also contains much general background information related to nursing in British Columbia.

Simpson, Sharon, & Abbott, Karen. (2010). Traditions and transitions: History of the nursing programs at Thompson Rivers University, 1973-2003. Kamloops: Authors.

When the hospital school of nursing at Kamloops’ Royal Inland Hospital closed in 1973, a new college-based program of nursing education for nurses opened at Cariboo College (later University College of the Cariboo, now Thompson Rivers University). This book describes the nursing programs from 1973 to 2003 within a context of political, social, and professional happenings in the late 1900s.

Pearson, Anne. (1985). The Royal Jubilee Hospital School of Nursing 1891-1982. Victoria: The Alumnae Association of the Royal Jubilee Hospital School of Nursing. 

A thorough history of one of the oldest hospital schools in British Columbia, with a list of graduates.  There are also a number of histories of this hospital, which dates back to 1858.

Kelly, Nora. (1973). Quest for a profession: The history of the Vancouver General Hospital School of Nursing. Vancouver: Vancouver General Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Association.  AND  Luxton, Donald. (2006). Vancouver General Hospital: 100 years of care and service. Vancouver: Vancouver Coastal Health Authority.  

Nora Kelly is an historian, and her excellent overview of the VGH school of nursing, the largest and longest-lasting hospital school, is readable and interesting.  A number of histories of Vancouver General Hospital are available, but this one by Donald Luxton is one of the most recent and contains wonderful photographs.

Royal Columbian Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae Book Committee (Comp.). (2013). A call to nurse: Memories of life on and off duty in a hospital training school 1901-1978. New Westminster, BC: Author.

This lavishly illustrated, 274-page book gathers “memories” from former students of the RCH School of Nursing, which existed from 1901 to 1978. The book is filled with tidbits of interesting information related to social conditions of each decade, often tied with unusual archival photographs. As such it will have a much wider audience outside of RCH graduates, for it offers a view of the lives of student nurses that could apply to most Canadian hospital training programs of this period.

St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing.  (1981). Reminiscing: St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing commemorative yearbook 1900-1981. Victoria: Victoria General Hospital.

The last graduating class from the St. Joseph’s Hospital School of Nursing wanted to do a special yearbook to mark closure of the school. It contains an excellent review of the history of this interesting school, which includes, among other tidbits, information on the first graduate, Anthony Williams (1901), BC’s first male graduate nurse.

Robertson, Betty, Marcellus, Catherine, & Dandy, Betty. (1992). Mission’s living memorials. Mission, BC: Mission Hospital. 

A number of hospitals in BC have excellent histories, but this one contains the story of Mary Ann Trethewey, the first trained nurse to come to BC’s Lower Mainland in 1882. She worked for the CPR and also opened Mission’s first hospital in her home in Mission. Author Betty Robertson is a BCHNS member and her co-authors are an historian and an archivist.

Biographies of Canadian / BC Nursing Leaders and Iconic Nurses

Biographies are the favorite reading for many people. The list below contains a few recent or classic works that are easily accessible. But if biographies appeal to you, The Canadian Dictionary of Biography (available online) introduced many Canadian nurses and you also can look for information on some of Canada’s earliest nurses based on this list of names:

  • Marie Rollet Hebert – this early settler to the Quebec city area was married to a pharmacists and when he died she carried on his pharmacy business and cared for the sick; she is considered the first non-Indigenous lay nurse in Canada
  • Augustine Sisters of early Quebec – in the 1600s, this religious order in France were particularly involved in establishing hospitals and preparing nurses. They sent four sisters to early Quebec to establish at hospital – the first “trained” nurses in Canada
  • Jeanne Mance – sent by a wealthy woman to Montreal (then Mount Royal) to establish a hospital for the early settlers, Jeanne Mance spent the winter at Quebec learning care from the Augustinian Sisters there, then established the Montreal General Hospital; a co-founder of Montreal, in most literature she is accepted as Canada’s “first nurse”
  • Marguerite d’Youville – a wealthy widow in early Quebec, she established a religious order to care for the sick – the Grey Nuns. She was also the first Canadian to become a Roman Catholic Saint (and is the only nurse who is, officially, a “saint.”
  • Sisters of St. Ann – this newly-established religious order in Quebec was asked to send teachers to Victoria in the early 1850s and sent four nuns; on arrival they found that health care was even more needed than education and the nuns were instrumental in bringing health care to BC. Their story is a most interesting one. (See also St. Joseph’s Hospital, Victoria below.)
  • Edith Cavell – a British nurse who nursed in Belgium in World War 1, cared for wounded soldiers from both the British and German armies, and was shot by the Germans as a spy; she became an international heroine, and her story makes compelling reading; several recent biographies available
  • Helen K. Mussallem – this BC nurse who became one of Canada most important nursing leaders of the last half of the 1900s has no biography about her; an online website (drhkm.ca) established and maintained by her family is a fantastic source of information and there are articles that deal with her many contributions; this is a possible topic for a doctoral dissertation leading to a biography.

Other classic or recent biographies of special interest to BC nurses include:

Street, Margaret M. (1973). Watch-fires on the mountains: The life and writings of Ethel Johns. Toronto: University of Toronto Press. (Out of print, but available in most libraries.)

Ethel Johns was a pioneer Canadian nursing leader. Among other things, she was the first director of the University of B.C. School of Nursing (first university school of nursing in the British Empire). This excellent biography also provides a great review of early Canadian nursing history.

Armstrong-Reid, Susan. (2014). Lyle Creelman: The frontiers of global nursing. Toronto: University of Toronto Press.

Lyle Creelman, a BC nurse who became a public health leader in Canada in the late 1930s, joined the United Nations Relief and Rehabilitation health staff at the end of World War 2 to help in the care of prisoners, especially the Jewish POWs in German concentration camps.  Later she was Chief Nursing Officer for the World Health Organization.

Smith, Lisa Anne. (2017). Emily Patterson:  The heroic life of a milltown nurse. Vancouver: Ronsdale Press.

Emily Patterson (1836-1909) is considered Vancouver’s first nurse.  Born in Britain, she picked up skills as a midwife and lay caregiver from her mother as she was growing up.  When she married and moved to North America, she was often in positions where she was called upon to be the local caregiver. When her husband became manager of a large sawmill in Moodyville (now part of North Vancouver), she had to deal with accidents there and, as the nearest doctor was in New Westminster, in the small community of Vancouver across the inlet by canoe. Historian Lisa Smith shows how nursing skills were acquired before Florence Nightingale’s influence on nursing education.

Carpenter, Helen M. (1982). A divine discontent: Edith Kathleen Russell, reforming educator. Toronto: University of Toronto Faculty of Nursing.

Kathleen Russell (1886-1964) was the first director of the faculty of nursing at the University of Toronto and a noted nursing leader of her time.  This 68-page biography was written by the then-current dean and also provides an excellent overview of Russell’s philosophy of education for nurses. Copies are available in many nursing libraries, but unfortunately it does not seem to be available online.  The U of T library also has an archival fond on Russell and a rare copy of a brief article on Russell by Florence Emory, a pioneer leader in Canadian public health nursing.

Royce, Marion. (1983). Eunice Dyke: Health care pioneer — from pioneer public health nurse to advocate for the aged. Toronto: Dundurn Press.

Eunice Dyke (1883-1969) was a pioneer student nurse as Canada adopted the Nightingale model and eventually became the first superintendent of the Toronto Department of Public Health.

Riegler, Natalie. (1997). Jean I. Gunn: Nursing leader. Toronto: Associated Medical Services/ Fitzhenry & Whiteside. (One of the “Canadian Medical Lives” series)

This biography of one of Canada’s early nursing leaders using a feminist perspective that illustrates hierarchical, paternalistic attitudes of trustees, physicians, and politicians toward nurses and nursing.

Ewen, Jean. (1981). China nurse 1932-1939: A young Canadian witnesses history. Toronto: McClelland and Stewart. (Paper edition c1988 also available)

During the Depression, this new graduate was thrilled to get a job as a missionary nurse to go to China, where she eventually ended up working with Canadian icon Dr. Norman Bethune during the Chinese Revolution. This down-to-earth, readable autobiography was a best-seller during the 1980s, and it also provides interesting glimpses into nursing history.

Woodham-Smith, Cecil. (1949). Florence Nightingale 1820-1910. London: Constable. (Later editions [e.g., 1992] and paperback editions are available.)  AND  Nightingale, Florence. (1860). Notes on nursing: What it is and what it is not. London: Harrison and Sons. (Facsimile editions available in most nursing libraries.) AND  Baly, Monica E. (1998). Florence Nightingale and the nursing legacy: Building the foundation of modern nursing and midwifery (2nd ed., rev.). Philadelphia: BainBridge Books.

Because Nightingale is a major force in nursing, as well as in other healthcare fields, all nurses should know a bit about her life. Woodham-Smith’s biography is the best-known and most popular of several biographies on this “founder of modern nursing.” Some praise her too strongly; others are highly critical, but almost any one of them gives you interesting background. A few, such as a book of her letters from a trip to Egypt in 1848, are beautiful coffee-table books. A 14-volume Collected Works of Florence Nightingale, edited by Dr. Lynn McDonald of the University of Guelph with contributions by several Canadian nursing historians, can be found in many online library collections; see http://www.uoguelph.ca/~cwfn/Introduction/index.html . As well, dozens of excellent sources on Nightingale are available online – but use discrimination and good judgment in assessing them. Her “textbook, Notes on Nursing, although written more than 100 years ago, is fun to look at and many of its principles still apply today.

Public / Community Health

Little is available on the history of public health nursing in BC.  Legacy (Zilm & Warbinek, 1994), mentioned above, gives a bit about the introduction of public health nursing in BC; the UBC course, started in 1919 for graduate nurses who wanted to specialize in this field, was one of the first in Canada. Recently articles have appeared in professional journals, but these are the classics that will give you an impressive background.

Wilson, Amy (2019). When days are long – Nurse in the North. Caitlin Press.

This book was first published in 1965 under the title “No Man Stands Alone” then recently republished with this title.


Green, Monica M. (1984). Through the years with public health nursing: A history of public health nursing in the provincial government jurisdiction, British Columbia. Ottawa: Canadian Public Health Association. 

This classic in the public health nursing provides a thorough overview of public health origins and activities in BC. The book is available online through the UBC Woodward Library.

Rutty, Christopher, & Sullivan, Sue. (2010). This is public health: A Canadian history. Ottawa: Canadian Public Health Association.  (Available The history e-book | Canadian Public Health Association (cpha.ca) .)

This excellent history of public health in Canada was a centenary project of the Canadian Public Health Association (CPHA). Written by health historian Christopher Rutty, it was edited by Sue Sullivan and reviewed extensively by public health physicians. Easy to read, it is available in both print and as a wonderful, free, interactive e-book through the CPHA. It is a bit too Ontario-centric from our liking (for example, its view on early smallpox epidemics omits its devastating effects on Indigenous populations), but it is a great introduction.

Public Health Nurses’ Bulletin. (1924-1939;Vols. 1-3). Published by the B.C. Provincial Board of Health. [Victoria: King’s Printer].

This unique annual collection of reports from public health nurses, usually working alone in communities throughout BC, provides an amazing view of what early public health nursing was like. The only collection is available in the University of BC’s Woodward Library Storage (WD2.  W1.PU2378), but if you are interested in early PHN it is worth the effort to access it.

Harrison, Carol. (2011). A passion for prevention: Public health nursing in Skeena Health Unit, 1937-1997. [Terrace, BC:] Author.

Other than Green’s classic book, little has been written about nursing in the various health units throughout BC; this is by one of BCHNS’s own members about her working years.

Emory, Florence H.M. (1953). Public health nursing in Canada: Principles and practice. Toronto: Macmillan.

Florence Emory (1889-1987) was an early public health nurse in Toronto, who later joined the Nursing faculty at the University of Toronto.  As professor emerita, she wrote this first public health nursing text, which provides a comprehensive background of public health nursing in Canada, especially in Ontario.  Herself a respected nursing leader, she also comments on the roles of many other nursing leaders of the day, including E. Kathleen Russell and M. Jean Wilson.

O’Keefe, Betty, & MacDonald, Ian. (2004). Dr. Fred and the Spanish lady: Fighting the killer flu. Surrey, BC: Heritage House.

Although not specifically about nursing history, this book is a biography of Dr. Fred Underhill, Vancouver’s chief medical officer, who led BC’s fight against the 1917-1918 Spanish influenza pandemic. It frequently mentions nurses who staffed the provincial health units of that time and nurses who were the front-line workers in this fight.

Indigenous Health Care In BC/Canada

Contrary to generally accepted “common knowledge,” the health of Indigenous Canadians before exposure to European exploration seems to have been generally good.  Little information has been gathered by First Nations historians dealing with this subject, although there are some oral histories reported in museums and archives, such as in the amazing museum on Haida Gwaii.  A few Quebec nursing histories report on how the assistance from First Nations aided the early settlers to eastern Canada to survive scurvy, a healthy lifestyle and diet generally contributed.

Drees, Laurie Meijer. (2013). Healing histories: Stories from Canada’s Indian hospitals. Edmonton: University of Alberta Press.

Almost any work by Laurie Meijer Drees, one of today’s most insightful nursing researchers into Canadian Indigenous health care, offers insights into the multi-challenges of dealing with centuries of social and health care problems of Canada’s Native populations. Healing Histories is based on the author’s seven years of research in government archives, on travels throughout British Columbia, Alberta, Saskatchewan, and the Yukon, and on interviews with sixteen people who were associated with Indian Health Service hospitals as patients, family members, nurses, or other staff members. It documents the impact of the IHS’s efforts to stem the rampant tuberculosis epidemics that wiped out families and sometimes entire indigenous communities in Canada’s west and far north. Oral historians will take important lessons from this book.

Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada. (2007). Twice as good: A history of Aboriginal nurses. Ottawa: Author.  AND McCallum, Mary Jane Logan. (2014). Indigenous women, work, and history, 1940-1980. Winnipeg: University of Manitoba Press.

Based on a project by Mary Jane McCallum, an aboriginal student taking her doctorate in history at the University of Manitoba, Twice as Good is a small but informative booklet that brings to light many of the major issues that have hampered admission of Aboriginal students into nursing. The Aboriginal Nurses Association of Canada (now the Canadian Indigenous Nurses Association) elected to make the work more widely available. This is a good starting point to find out about young women who found they had to work twice as hard to prove themselves, but in the end were twice as good! Among other nurses, it gives a bit of background on Jean Cuthand Goodwill, one of the most fascinating and important Indigenous nursing leaders in Canada and a founder of the ANAC in the early 1970s.  McCallum’s 2014 book shows the research and depth that has gone into her work.

Drees, Laurie Meijer. (2010). The Nanaimo and Charles Camsell Indian hospitals: First nations’ narratives of health care, 1945 to 1965. Histoire Sociale, 43(85), 165-191. doi:10.1353/his.2010.0002 .  AND Drees, Laurie Meijer. (2010). Indian hospitals and aboriginal nurses: Canada and Alaska. In Canadian Bulletin of Medical History / Bulletin Canadien d’Histoire De La Medecine, 27(1), 139-161. doi:10.3138/cbmh.27.1.139 .

These two articles challenge the accepted rhetoric about First Nations’ perspectives on health and health care as delivered by doctors and nurses. Instead, Drees offers oral histories collected in Alberta and British Columbia to suggest that Indigenous peoples who experienced the Nanaimo and Charles Camsell Indian hospitals between 1945 and 1965 perceive the value of their experiences as reflected in survivance, a concept Drees argues is recalled through narratives emphasizing both humour and pain, as well as past and present personal resilience.

Harrison, Carol. (2016).  Miller Bay Indian hospital: Life and work in a TB Sanatorium. [Terrace, BC:] Author.

This book examines the history of one of the many  “Indian Hospitals” across Canada devoted to care of patients with tuberculosis, which was, and still is, epidemic among Indigenous populations. The author deplores the lack of data available from a First Nations perspective about the care; rather, she explores what have been termed the “good intentions” of health care workers.

Arya, Akshaya Neil, & Piggott, Thomas (Eds). (2018). Under-served: Health determinants of Indigenous, inner-city, and migrant populations in Canada. Toronto: Canadian Scholars.

This book examines the historical, political, and social factors that influence the health and health care of Indigenous, inner-city, and migrant populations in Canada. It extends beyond traditional determinants of health framework to include less well-discussed factors that heavily influence these under-served populations. Contributors include leading scholars such as Dennis Raphael, a well-known expert on health policy at York University. This text, suited for many courses in health studies, addresses the pressing need for systemic change both in and outside of the Canadian health care system and will be a useful reference for students in health studies, nursing, and social work in crucial topics like health promotion, social inequality, and community health.

Rutherdale, Myra. (2010). Caregiving on the periphery: Historical perspectives on nursing and midwifery in Canada. Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press.

This edited volume examines the experience of nurses in Newfoundland and Labrador, northern Saskatchewan, northern British Columbia, and the Arctic. Essays include Mennonite midwives in Western Canada, missionary nurses, and Aboriginal nursing assistants in the Yukon. Themes of religion, colonialism, social divisions, and native-newcomer relations are presented. Particular attention is paid to nursing and the relations of race to medical work, particularly in connection to ideas of British ethnicity and conceptualized meanings of “whiteness.” This volume provides critical insight into the history of medicine in Canada and the importance of women for the country’s well being.


Ethical issues in health care have been debated at least as far back as the Code of Hammurabi (about 1754 BCE). Today, given issues of diversity, racism, colonialism, sexism, wars, and climate and other disasters, dealing with ethics is more important than ever.  Canada has been a leader in the development of national and international codes of ethics for nurses dating back to the early 1900s. This list provides two entries that introduce the history and scope of this topic, but these just touch the surface.

Storch, Janet L., Rodney, Patricia, & Starzomski, Rosalie (Eds). (2013). Toward a moral horizon: Nursing ethics for leadership and practice (2nd ed.). Toronto: Pearson. AND

Storch, Janet. L. (2007). Enduring values in changing times: The CNA codes of ethics. Canadian Nurse, 103 (4), 29-37.

The text, envisioned and compiled by Canada’s three leaders in nursing ethics, contains many of their own explorations into this thorny and increasingly important subject. Chapters 1 and 2 of the book provides historical overviews. It also includes chapters by other leading North American ethicists to explore the challenges of embedding ethics in health care practice, education, research, and policy at all levels — from local to global. The article by Dr. Storch, Nursing professor emerita, University of Victoria, provides an excellent short overview of the history of nursing ethics, especially in Canada and internationally; it is a terrific starting point.

Books on Military Nursing

Books by and about nurses who served with the Canadian Forces, especially in World Wars I and II, are plentiful and interesting. These are just a few to get you started.

Nicholson, G.W.L. (1975). Canada’s nursing sisters. Toronto, Samuel Stevens/Hakkert & Company.

The classic history, although a number of others have appeared in recent years.  Also check for books by Nursing Historian Cynthia Toman for two other excellent histories.

Landells, Edith A. (1995, 1999). The military nurses of Canada: Recollections of Canadian military nurses. Three volumes. White Rock, BC: Co-Publishing/ Addison Graphics.

Landell’s three volumes contain excellent brief summaries of the various military campaigns as well as autobiographical and biographical notes about individual Canadian Nursing Sisters (now called Nursing Officers), including the grassroots nurses. This wonderful historical collection was put together by a former Nursing Sister who did these books after her retirement in B.C.  An essential reference if you are looking into military nursing in Canada.

Bongard, Ella Mae. (Edited by Eric Scott). (1997). Nobody ever wins a war: The World War 1 diaries of Ella Mae Bongard, R.N. Ottawa: Janeric Enterprises. 

A delightful and moving memoir and diary by a World War I nurse.

Duffus, Maureen. (2009). Battlefront nurses in WWI: The Canadian Army Medical Corps in England, France and Salonika, 1914-1919. Victoria: Town and Gown Press.

Excellent exploration of the wartime experiences of Victoria Nursing Sisters Elsie Collis and Mary Morrison (the author’s aunt), based on their diaries, by a well-known and popular local historian in Victoria.