Century of psychiatric nursing on display at BU ‘Curve Gallery’

On June 20, 1923, seven young women graduated with a diploma in Mental Nursing from the Brandon Mental Hospital. This was the first time in Western Canada such a graduation had ever taken place.

The display stretches along a curved wall, and visitors can come and go to explore at their leisure.

Following that first graduation the Brandon Mental Hospital held a graduation exercise for psychiatric nurses and attendants every year (except 1930) until 1994. During that 70-year period the curriculum developed, and the profession matured. The graduates of the psychiatric nursing programme, which had started as a work force of the asylums under the control of the medical superintendents, became registered, in 1960, to work in settings outside the mental hospitals. The attendants and mental nurses were no longer educated separately and they all became registered psychiatric nurses upon successful completion of the programme. 

Throughout the 1960s and ’70s, the Registered Psychiatric Nurses Association of Manitoba took more control of the profession and the education programme, from the superintendents and they recognised the need for further education for psychiatric nurses. Standards of practice were instituted, a new act was passed in 1980, and by 1986 psychiatric nurses were able to obtain a post diploma degree from Brandon University — the very first in Canada.

With the closing of the mental hospital in the mid 1990s it was necessary to move the education of psychiatric nurses. In collaboration with Brandon University, Canada’s first four-year baccalaureate degree in Psychiatric Nursing was established in 1995. This was followed by another first in 2011, when a Masters of Psychiatric Nursing was established at Brandon University.

This year, 2023, marks the 100th anniversary of psychiatric nursing in Canada and the 25th anniversary of the first graduation of Psychiatric Nursing from Brandon University.

A pictorial display of some of the highlights of this 100-year journey is located in the Curve Gallery on the second floor of the John E. Robbins Library at Brandon University. Historical photos and artifacts are on display. All are invited to join an opening reception in the afternoon of Wednesday, May 31, from 3:30 to 4:30 p.m. The display will remain up for at several weeks, and is open to the public whenever the library is open. There is no charge.


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