25 July 2016

New Brunswick Museum exhibit highlights history of nursing

CTV Atlantic

A new exhibit at the New Brunswick Museum in Saint John allows visitors to take a stroll through the province’s medical history.

The museum’s nursing exhibit shows how the profession has evolved over the past century.

“It shows a lot of the uniforms that were worn from the late 19th century to the present day and the changes there of, particularly in women’s costume, but of course in the late 20th century also men’s,” says Gary Hughes, museum curator.

The New Brunswick Museum gathered the uniforms, pins and equipment from nurses and their families across the region. The display is already becoming a popular exhibit.

Elizabeth Allingham has been a nurse for almost 20 years and says she's noticed changes within the span of her own career.

“How I nursed when I first started, verses how I nurse now is so different because of the scope of practice and the responsibility of the medications we can give,” says Allingham.

The exhibit features different types of nurses, from those in hospitals, to public health and those who served in the wars. It also details how education requirements have changed.

“You have the establishment of a regulatory process for nurses; they had to pass exams as of 1919 in order to become nurses,” says Hughes.

Nursing was originally a female dominated profession, however, around the 1960s male nurses started to come on board.

“You start looking at nursing year books, you start to see one or two and by the 70s they are increasing a bit, now there's more male nurses than ever before,” says Hughes.

The new exhibit comes as the Nurses Association of New Brunswick marks its centennial year.

With files from CTV Atlantic's Ashley Blackford