21 June 2016

Nursing milestone marked at New Brunswick Museum

Uniforms and nursing tools from the 1880s to modern times featured in new display

CBC News

The New Brunswick Museum is marking the centennial of registered nursing in New Brunswick with a display featuring uniforms and nursing tools dating back to 1880s.

100 years of Nursing looks back at all the layers of clothing nurses had to shed over the years before being able to take advantage of the comfort of the present day scrubs.

"In the early nursing the difference between maids and nurses was very slight," said curator Gary Hughes about the full-length and layered uniforms from the 1880s.

"This is the ultimate in female respectability. It weighs them down, makes their job more difficult and in many cases what nurses did at the time was sweep floors as well did their care."

Registered nursing officially became a profession in New Brunswick in 1916 and the museum is marking the centennial with the display.

It features uniforms nurses worn during the First World War and Second World War. Also featured is the dramatic transition from plain dresses until the 1960s to vibrantly coloured pantsuits in the 1970s.

"You get the multi-coloured uniforms, although recently they have gone back to pure white or in some cases black, but very simple for both men and women's costumes," said Hughes.

Men became involved in nursing in the second part of the 20th century, although in the exhibit only present day uniforms were featured for them.

Some tools of the trade and a replica of the vessel that carried nurses to the northeastern United States for their training are also featured in the exhibit.

The collection of tools, academic gowns, nursing hats and photographs was originally brought to the museum from the Nursing Association of New Brunswick in 2007.

The museum decided to hold off on the display until the centennial.