COQUITLAM, B.C., Oct. 27, 2020 – Between the hours of lectures, rotating shifts and a vibrant social life, sleep must have been a rare treat for students making their way through Essondale’s psychiatric nursing school in decades past.
The latest online exhibit by the City of Coquitlam Archives, An Ode to a Nurse in Training: School Life for a Student Psychiatric Nurse, takes readers behind the scenes for a look at what daily life was like for students at the School of Psychiatric Nursing at Essondale (later Riverview) from the early 1930s to the early 1970s.
Available at www.coquitlam.ca/nursing2, this exhibit is a follow up to an earlier online exhibit recounting the history of psychiatric nursing and the school itself called An Emerging Profession: Psychiatric Nursing at Essondale, 1913–1973.
A Mix of Hard Work and Camaraderie
“Will any of us ever forget our confused, timid probie days…” wrote one nurse in the 1946 Annual, referring to the probationary period when students were scrutinized before being officially accepted into the program. “Our first broken medicine glass was a minor tragedy in our lives.”
It was a busy three years for the students, who lived on-site, attended a total of 300 hours of lectures, worked rotating shifts day and night and studied late into the night – that is, when they weren’t having fun with their classmates.
Despite the demanding school schedules, life wasn’t all work and no play for the student nurses. Social calendars were packed with teas, themed banquets, parties, sock hops, movie nights and other pursuits, not to mention swimming, softball, tennis and other sports.
Punctuated with historical photos, snippets of poems, doodles and other documents from the Riverview Hospital Historical Society Collection, An Ode to a Nurse in Training offers an engaging and enlightening look at a bygone time and distinctive part of the history of Riverview, and Coquitlam.
Explore Online Exhibits
The Archives website at www.coquitlam.ca/cityarchives features 13 online exhibits on a variety of topics. Archives staff produce a new exhibit each quarter, delving into the Archives for insightful and sometimes quirky stories about Coquitlam’s past. Some exhibits also share information about new acquisitions and highlight upcoming events.
Each online exhibit marries engaging text with digitized documents, maps and photos to bring the subjects to life. Online visitors can while away a pleasant afternoon learning about Coquitlam’s First World War soldiers, the City’s changing boundaries, the local business that was Canada’s first plywood producer, early scrapbooking efforts, Coquitlam’s May Day tradition, Colony Farm’s Holstein herd, the Westwood racing circuit, the history of Coquitlam Centre and the story of psychiatric nursing at Essondale, among other topics.
About the City of Coquitlam Archives
The City of Coquitlam Archives serves a dual purpose: to preserve and to make accessible. Since the inception of the archives program, Coquitlam has been raising its profile to encourage people to use its services and discover the trove of records in the collection. Other outreach includes weekly #TBT posts on the City’s social media platforms and a small collection of historic photos at www.historypin.org.
For more information about the City of Coquitlam Archives and to view the online exhibits, visit www.coquitlam.ca/cityarchives.
City of Coquitlam