3. Tales of a Student Nurse: The Uniform

On that same Friday, the Director briefly explained the history of our School. It had been created in 1954 as a new model of nurses' education known as a 2+1 program. Two years of academic training mixed with supervised clinical practice in the hospital was enhanced by a final year of paid internship. The senior student nurse would spend her entire third year working independently in the hospital as a member of the nursing teams of the clinical units to which she was assigned.

The nursing leadership team of 1954 took pains to design a unique student uniform for the newly established School. It was to be 'neat but not gaudy', and designed to be functional, 'not to attract unwanted attention.' 1. The cap was designed in honour of Jeanne Mance (1606-1673), the pioneer Canadian nurse who was always shown wearing her skull cap. With the passage of the next several centuries, the skull cap came to be commonly known as a beanie. Our cap was a beanie/skull cap attached to a white cuff/brim.

To enhance our uniform's functionality, a full bib apron in white was added to the uniform dress whenever the student was working with patients; it was not required over the uniform while we were in the classroom. Its purpose was to protect the dress from being soiled. Being a double breasted dress, the buttonholes on the bib fit over two of the white buttons in rows on the bodice. At the back, the apron wrapped around the student 's hips and waist. The waistband was fastened to fit snugly by pushing the shanks of two large white buttons through buttonholes in the waistband at about the region of each hip, securing them with short metal clips. The apron was to be removed after leaving the hospital and before reaching the residence.

In spite of the apron's functional service, Dorothy R. Colquohon, the first Director of the new School of Nursing, wrote: "To a woman, our students shed their bibs and aprons on graduation, and never used them again." 2.

Ms. Colquohon had no idea of what those women would do with the black military oxfords.

1, 2: Met School of Nursing Memorabilia. The 1950s
The Metropolitan Cap and Uniform.
Available at http://met.scholarsportal.info

Read more Tales of a Student Nurse stories!

Barbara Thiessen

Barbara Tiessen is a retired RN who lives with her husband in southwestern Ontario but winters in the Rio Grande Valley of Texas. She researched her genealogy, wrote and self published The Schoenfeld Russlaender: A Mennonite Family's History in 2015. More recently her interest have focused on writing short stories.
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