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School of Nursing

The Lorrain School of Nursing opened in 1916 under the capable hands of Sister Saint Elizabeth. The school was associated with the Pembroke General (Regional) Hospital and graduated its first class of nurses in 1919. In 1926, the school and hospital were transferred to the administration of the Grey Sisters of the Immaculate Conception.

For 50 years (1916 – 1966) the traditional three year programme was offered and a total of 522 nurses graduated from the school and offered their services in the community as well as in various parts of the world. From 1966 -1974, in the “two plus one year” and then the 2 year programme, there were 273 more graduates making a total graduation of 795 over the 58 years of the programme’s existence.

In the early 1970’s, the Government of Ontario mandated that Colleges and Universities would become the sole trainers of nurses in the province. Pembroke’s campus of Algonquin College in the Ottawa Valley began offering its nursing program in 1974. 

After 58 years the Lorrain School of Nursing officially closed its doors as a training facility for nurses.


  • The mid -1960’s tuition for the three-year program was $358. Room and board was included in that fee. Uniforms were also washed and starched by the hospital laundry service at no cost to the student."
  • Students had to live in the nursing residence, which now (2012) houses offices. They traveled to the hospital through an underground tunnel several times each day. No one was afraid to walk alone.
  • Residence rules were strict and were enforced by housemothers. No guests were allowed beyond the front entrance and lights were out at 10 p.m.
  • The hospital's director of nursing lived in the nurses' residence.
  • There was no nail polish, jewelry, eye make-up or unprofessional actions tolerated. Uniforms had to be spotless and stiffly starched, shoes were polished and seams on white stockings were as straight as a ruler.
  • Students worked in the hospital's medical-surgical, pediatrics, obstetrics and emergency departments, as well as the diet kitchen and operating room.
  • Patients with heart attacks were confined to complete bed rest for three weeks. Women remained in the hospital for five days after the delivery of a baby.
  • Students had a 4 week vacation the first year, 3 weeks the second year and 2 weeks the third with one weekend off a month. They began working on the wards a month after they started, for 2 hours on weekdays either morning or afternoon, and 4 hours per day on weekends. Total work and class hours were supposed to equal 40. Prior to the class of 1970, a lot of classes worked 40 hours in the hospital in addition to classes
  • Often there were only students alone on a floor to provide care for up to 42 patients. If the students were lucky, there was an older student also on shift or if luckier still, a graduate. If there was someone more senior than the first year students, that person was in charge, and answered phones, transcribed orders off charts (i.e.when the doctors wrote them), and filled in with any other tasks. One student was assigned to give medications, and one was assigned to perform treatments. The treatment nurse took vital signs on all patients, and did many things done by physical therapists, respiratory therapists and others today. She would take care of any dressing changes, IVs or blood administration, or anything else that did not involve giving oral meds or shots. This could include eye drops or ointments, skin ointments, inhalation treatments.
  • Throughout the program, students could be assigned to work night duty at any time. This meant working alone on most floors. It meant endless rounds, "totalling" intake and output on charts, writing 24-hour nurses' notes, filling out lots of lab slips, and getting preoperative patients up in the morning for baths and enemas as well as collecting early morning voided specimens. It meant giving a full report on all the patients to the day staff of RNs and the Head Nurse, as well as other students. It meant coming off duty at 7:30 am, tired and cranky, and probably still having to go to class that morning. It meant trying to sleep in the middle of the day. Students put signs on their doors proclaiming that the inhabitant was on "Night Duty," in the hope that classmates would be quieter around that area. After having worked one month of night duty herself, every student was sensitive to those signs!
  • Affiliations occurred in the second year of the programme and lasted anywhere from 6 weeks to 3 months. For some students, it was the first time they had ever been away from home and in the large cities of Toronto and Montreal.
  • Students had to conform to strict standards of behavior, dress and health habits. House mothers hovered over the students to make sure they didn’t misbehave.
  • Nurses were not permitted to marry while in training, and subsequent marriage was grounds for instant dismissal.
  • Dress inspections conducted by the Director took place in the dining room at the compulsory breakfast. Not meeting the Director’s criteria for appearance would necessitate a trip back to residence to correct the “problem”. Students were weighed once a month to make sure they did not ‘get too heavy’ since there was a professional necessity for nurses to ‘look well.’
  • In the early 1940’s, Lorrain affiliation with VON and Public Health Nurses began
  • 1945 – Affiliation arranged with Montreal Sick Children’s Hospital
  • 1930 – Affiliation with the Ottawa General Hospital for dietary experience. Discontinued when the hospital got a dietician on staff
  • Mid 1940’s, psychiatric experience obtained at the Ontario Hospital in Kingston
  • 1959 – Psychiatric experience arranged through the North Bay Psychiatric Hospital and the Ontario Hospital in Toronto
  • 1957 – The Pembroke General Hospital’s Women’s Auxiliary provided the first bursary to a qualifying applicant.
  • 1962 – Educational pre-requisites required 60 % average in Grade 12. All sciences were part of the high school curriculum.
  • The 10 most popular first names of all Lorrain graduates are: Mary (37), Ann (16), Margaret (16),
  • Rita (13), Catherine (12), Kathleen (12), Elizabeth (11), Gertrude (9), Linda (9) and Claire (8).
  • Top 5 family surnames of graduates are: Ryan ( 11), Morris(9), Fitzpatrick (7), Kenopic ( 6) and Mulvihill (6)
  • 23 Grey Nuns were students of and graduated from the School.
  • Regular attendance at Mass in the hospital’s chapel was compulsory. Small blue “beanies” (secured with bobby pins) were provided as a head covering for students before they received their first cap.

In 1966, to keep pace with the increasing need for nurses, the administration of the school began the  work of planning a new curriculum based on the changing trends in nursing education. The three year programme was being phased out.

The new programme planned to include two years of education folowed by one year of service or internship. It was initiated in 1967 by Sister Rena Spooner and then carried throughto its finalization by Sister Rita Kehoe.

Within a few years as a result of the increasing shortage of nurses, the government introduced the two year programme with all of the previous three year content condensed into two years

All our teaching in the hospital is ‘patient-centred'. Jean Nadeau, Donna Frost, Beverley Beazley, Kathleen Marlowe and Jean Aubrey listen attentively as Sister Mary Melanie explains the importance of intravenous therapy in the treatment and recovery of the sick.
The ability to think and act quickly and effectively is essential characteristics of the Operating Room Nurse. How to set up the cardiac arrest apparatus is carefully explained by the clinical instructor- Miss Isabel Kenopic.
There will be no need for fear in any emergency. Mrs. Carol Spooner demonstrates the use of an oxygen mask as Betty Bulger, Colleen O’Reilly and Joan Myers listen attentively.