Helen’s secondment to the Royal Commission was a stimulating and memorable time for her
but she had barely completed writing her final report when she was approached to become
Executive Director of the Canadian Nurses Association. With alacrity, she refused to assume
that “old maid job”. When negotiations with another candidate failed, Helen was asked to
become “acting Executive Director for four months” , until a suitable person could be found. The
minutes of the 21-23 of February 1963 meeting state:
(Minutes of the Executive Committee Meeting – 21,22,23 Feb 63)
It was moved by the Rev. Sister Decary and seconded by Miss Agnes Maloney
“‘That the President be authorized to name the committee to implement the resolution.”
The meeting recessed at 12: 30 p.m. for lunch which was served in the Basement Board Room.
Acting Executive Director: The President called the meeting to order at 1:55 p.m. and
advised the Executive Committee that Dr. Helen Mussallem, had consented to be the Acting
Executive Director, following Miss Stiver’s retirement on April
30, 1963, until the new appointment of Executive Director is made.
I.C.N. Board Meeting: It was announced that the President would be attending the Board
Meetings of the International Council of Nurses, in Geneva, in August,
1963. It was unanimously agreed that Dr. Mussallem would accompany Miss MacLennan to the
Red Cross International Study Centre: The President reported that the Red Cross
International Study Centre was being held in
Lausanne, Switzerland, August 19-
23, 1963. The members of the Executive agreed that Dr. Mussallem should attend the Red
Cross International Study Centre which is being held following the
World Federation of Mental Health: The Executive Committee authorized the President to
represent the Canadian Nurses’ Association at the Sixteenth Annual Meeting of the World
Federation of Mental Health in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, July
Report of Selections Committee: On the President’s request, Mrs Isobel MacLeod took the
chair and the President as Chairman of the Selections Committee presented her report, for the
information of the Executive.
2 / 15
The CNA Years 5.4
It was reported that at the meeting of the Sub-Committee of the Executive Committee on
October 18, 1962, the elected Officers were named as a Selections Committee to consider the
replacement of the Executive Director. This committee met on October 18 and gave
consideration to the names of several persons. The Chairman was authorized to invite letters of
application from these persons.
Subsequently, it was felt advisable to publicize the vacancies in national office more widely and
an advertisement was placed in The Canadian Nurse Journal and letters were sent to the
Executive Secretaries of the Provincial Associations and Directors of University Schools of
A roster of names has been compiled and these applications are presently being processed.
The President resumed the chairmanship of the meeting.
DATE AND PLACE OF NEXT MEETING:
The next meeting of the Executive Committee, Canadian Nurses’ Association, will be held in
Ottawa, Canada, on February 13, 14~ 15, 1964.
There being no further business, the meeting adjourned at 2:05 p.m. on motion of Miss Claudia
Minutes approved ___________________
Again, Helen requested an extension of her leave of absence from the Vancouver General
Hospital and again they complied.
While in Vancouver in late April 1963 to give a keynote address to the Registered Nurses
Association of British Columbia annual meeting, Helen went home to Haney for the weekend.
There she saw in the Vancouver Sun (or Province) a large picture of herself announcing her
appointment not as “Acting Executive Director” but as Executive Director of CNA. She cried,
quietly, “Foul!” On her return to National Office, Helen asked Penny Stiver, the incumbent
Executive Director, what had happened. Penny said that she had consulted with Gordon
Henderson, CNA’s legal counsel and a highly respected lawyer, nationally and internationally,
about Helen’s appointment. Mr. Henderson advised that, as CNA was involved with purchase of
land, etc. for a new headquarters, the photo should bear the name of the executive director. So,
without consultation, the change was made. Helen understood.
The big day –May 1, 1963 –arrived. With trepidation, Helen sat in the Executive Director’s Chair
at 74 Stanley Avenue for the very first time. She felt so alone. Then, the phone rang and it was
Laura Barr, Executive Director of the Registered Nurses Association of Ontario. How supportive
and how heart-warming! As the day wore on, more and more calls were received –not only from
nurse colleagues but from other health organizations, government officials and a large number
of nongovernmental organizations.
The die was cast –for four months. All went well until Helen asked the President, Electa
MacLennan, to whom she should turn over the Executive Director responsibilities on completion
of her term. Electa was so convincing. She asked the Acting Executive Director if she could stay
on just until the 1964 biennial meeting in St. John’s, Newfoundland. What a blockbuster meeting
that was! CNA outsmarted the Canadian Medical Association by having Mr. Justice Emmett Hall
address CNA’s meeting -which just happened to coincide with the CMA meetings. He could
have addressed the CMA but he chose CNA. What a coup! Also, Mr. Canada, John Fisher,
came to inspire CNA members about Expo 67. Dr. Naegle was there too, addressing the
membership on the proposed study of nursing education in Canada. Little did they, and Helen,
know that it would be the last time they would see him.
5.4.2 Appointment as Executive Director of the Canadian Nurses Association
Helen remembers well her trepidation and enthusiasm that first day as Executive Director of
CNA. As it was only a four-month appointment, she did not have an orientation or a position
description. In those days, there was little emphasis on such frivolities –one just got on with the
The fledgling Executive Director had no idea of all that the position entailed but there were a few
onerous tasks which loomed on the horizon in addition to the day-to-day “running of National
Office”. A search for a suitable site on which to build a CNA National Headquarters was
required, and Helen was determined to persuade the President and Executive Committee of the
need for a national library resource which she had sorely missed while completing the Pilot
Project. She also perceived a very great need for a proper statistical program. There had also
been a very strong lobby for the Canadian Nurses Association to host the 1969 Quadrennial
Congress of the International Council of Nurses. All of these projects were formidable, of
course, but Helen was excited to be getting on with some interesting projects.
CNA had recently undergone a structure study in which the National Office at 74 Stanley
Avenue was reorganized. At that time, CNA rented space from the Royal College of Physicians
and Surgeons headquarters where it occupied the second floor. Space for staff was reasonably
adequate and the Board room was available for CNA use when the College wasn’t using it. This
could be quite inconvenient. Another irritant was that there were only two toilets for CNA’s 16-29
female employees. Undaunted, the new Executive Director would use the toilet (forbidden to
CNA staff) that was reserved for the College President.
One day, while using the forbidden toilet because she thought the President and everyone else
was away, Helen heard three men speaking as they entered the washroom. She was frantic!
There she was, seated on the john, trapped! As the men entered, the ever-resourceful
Executive Director got off the seat, put her two feet on top of the toilet seat and hung on for dear
life. One of the men was Dr. Graham, position, the other, the President and the last was the
head of the Finance Committee. As the men performed the necessary functions and were
chatting away, Helen thought, “Oh boy, if I make a sound… Dear God, don’t let me slip!” When
the three men left, having completed their ablutions, a trembling Helen climbed down off the
toilet and never used it again. Sometime later, she told this story to Dr. Graham and he thought
it was very funny but, at the time, it was anything but humorous to her.
Alternate unedited version of the preceding story:
There were other humorous, and not so humorous, events that could be recalled. As tenants on
the upper floor of the magnificent building owned by the Royal College of Physicians and
Surgeons (RCPS) there were certain restrictions imposed. The large office space was
completely ours to use as well as the en suite bathroom. But the elegant Board Room had to be
booked well in advance for our (CNA) Board meetings. Even then we were not always certain
that the College might not have an emergency meeting and we would have the onerous task of
rescheduling our meeting. Another area that I was told, on several occasions, was not for our
use was the Presidents (RCPS) washroom. As we had only two toilets for our entire female staff
I used The Presidents Toilet that was adjacent to my office, always ensuring first that the RCPS
President was not in the building. One day I was too busy to look over the railing down to the
executive offices to determine if the president was in Ottawa. When seated on the toilet, that
was sectioned off in the president’s washroom with partial walls that were opened about 40 cm
from the floor up to about 1 1/2 m, I heard three male voices. Yes, they belonged to the
president, the general secretary and the executive secretary. What to do: I couldn’t escape
without being noticed and by the time I did that, the flies would probably be unzipped. So I
crawled up the toilet and put one foot on either side of the toilet and hung on by grasping—with
finger tips only—the top of the partial wall. I heard all the noises and conversation and then they
left. I climbed down cautiously and dashed back to my office, never to use that toilet again—well
almost never. The RCPS Staff were very impressed with my interest in the visit by their
president. They thought I was anxious about the extension of the lease and assured me that I
was not to worry.
When I was thrust into the post, in May 1963, I had some doubts about my preparation for the
position of chief executive officer of a large national organization. My experience as Director of
the Vancouver General Hospital School of Nursing; my doctoral studies in the administration of
higher education; and my doctoral dissertation had been opportunities to hone my
administrative skills but I was apprehensive about my ability to administer such a large, complex
enterprise. There was no center, at that time, for additional preparation of CEOs but I believed
the principles I had learned during my educational preparation could be applied. This was true
to some extent but the role of the CEO was a relatively unknown field in those days.
In 1963, I wrote at the back of my daily calendar:
– A function of management is to establish policies for the control of activities in general
and, by way of contrast, to the functions of management, those of the administrator spring from
converting policy into practice.
– A good administrator must make the most effective use of existing or available skills.
I found no “existing or available” management skills at CNA headquarters in 1963 so I greeted,
with great enthusiasm, the arrival of Lillian Pettigrew on 3 February 1964. She had been
Executive Director of the Manitoba Association of Registered Nurses. In our first interview,
Lillian told me that one of the great joys of her life was to prepare and finalize the minutes of
meetings. Glory halleluiah! There was nothing I could do less well than prepare and write
minutes. I was always more interested in action “-in the meetings themselves, the strategy, etc.
And Lillian wrote exquisite minutes.
During my visit with family in Haney, it became obvious that my father’s health was gradually
deteriorating. Although he had Parkinson’s Disease his primary health concerns were now
related to his abdominal condition. Dad was very proud of my achievements and, especially, of
this latest appointment. Fortunately, he was a very successful businessman –and politician –so
finances allowed for a permanent practical nurse/housekeeper to help mother meet his health
needs. Both were positive and uncomplaining. Occasionally, however, mother was distressed to
realize that, after working so hard all their lives, now, when the time had come to enjoy the fruits
of their labours, Dad was unable to do so. This visit was the last time I saw Dad alive. I
continued to telephone every week (usually Sunday) when possible, and did so on 23 June
1963. Dad was in hospital so the nurse brought him the phone. His voice was clear but
He told me that my three brothers and two sisters had been in touch with him that day. His last
words to me were “Carry on”.
Although I was now CNA Executive Director, I was still required to appear before the Royal
Commission on Health Services. My last “interrogation” was scheduled for 24 June 1963 and,
although full of grief, I was determined to keep my appointment. I asked Mr. Bleshin, Director of
Research, not to tell anyone about Dad’s death as I was afraid I would break down should
anyone offer sympathy. The discussions went well and, when they were completed, Mr. Bleshin
accompanied me to the elevator. I was too numb to talk. CNA staff were so very supportive.
Georgina Clarke, Director of Administration, had parked her car on Wellington Street so that I
could be immediately whisked away to the airport.
5.4.3 Special Projects (Library, Statistics)
One goal which CNA’s new Executive Director was determined to accomplish was to establish a
National Library so Canadian nurses and others would have access to the resources she had
so desperately missed while completing the Pilot Project for the Evaluation of Schools of
Nursing in Canada. The first task was to find a suitable Librarian. The Executive Committee
gave permission for CNA to hire a part-time Librarian and Helen interviewed all of the
applicants. One person –Margaret Parkin –stood out above all the rest. Margaret, however,
wanted a full-time position with a specialty library. As it turned out, she was the most suitable
candidate for the position and was eventually hired.
When Margaret Parkin came to National Office at 74 Stanley Avenue, CNA’s Library was a pile
of 350 outdated books stacked in the corner. Together, Margaret and Helen established a
library that today serves not only nurses but the whole health community and others from all
Helen’s second self-appointed task was to find a person qualified to establish a statistical
program. She was very fortunate to recruit Lois Graham Cumming who had married a Canadian
and had recently relocated from Washington, D.C. where she had been with NIH. Lois
developed a tremendous statistical program which was the envy of other associations and was
used extensively by governments and others.
Helen recalls many humorous events which took place at 74 Stanley. She remembers, vividly,
two visiting nurses from Africa who had come to CNA as part of a world-wide tour. On the day of
their visit, it was Ramadan and, of course, they were not allowed to eat between sunrise and
sundown. The older nurse was obviously very devoted and went on talking with Helen all
morning and until noon and past. Sandwiches, which were made by the superintendent’s wife,
were delivered but she didn’t eat. The younger visitor finally asked Helen if she could speak with
her in the washroom. She said, “I am so hungry. Don’t tell my friend but I would like to have
something to eat.” Helen brought her some sandwiches which she ate in the toilet. That
evening, CNA’s Executive Director invited the international visitors to dinner at the Chateau
Laurier Grill which was one of the best dining places in all of Ottawa. It was a glorious meal with
a huge hind of beef served on a gorgeous silver tray with a great silver cover on it. Both ladies
ordered the roast beef. The famished senior nurse quickly polished off her dinner and then said
she would like to have another piece of beef. Helen informed the waiter. The waiter called the
head waiter who asked Helen to speak with him away from the table. Apologetically, he advised
that if the lady had another piece of beef, he would have to charge her for two meals. “Well, go
ahead,” said Helen. So, CNA’s African visitor made up for the meal she missed between sunrise
and sundown and was probably surprised that her companion was satisfied with the meal that
had been served to them.
Then there were the visits of Ottawa Mayor, Dr. Charlotte Whitton. The first time she came to
my office, she simply barged in. No appointment — no nothing. She plunked herself down in the
chair opposite mine and inexplicably said, “I bet Queen Victoria wouldn’t know what to do with a
pregnant soldier.” I hardly had time to turn this sentence around in my mind before she told me
she was producing a film of interviews with “prominent Ottawa women” and I was to be one.
Enough said — I was interviewed. It was a long, time-consuming assignment. Dr. Whitton
always called me at 6:30 P.M., often when I was preparing dinner for guests. One never said
“no” or “I’m too busy now” to Charlotte Whitton. Our conversations would take up to half an hour
so I learned to put the phone on the kitchen counter and say into the receiver from time to time,
“very interesting Dr. Whitton”. I eventually learned that her comment about Queen Victoria
referred to the her significant role in arranging for assistance for women in the armed services,
from overseas or in other locations across Canada, who became pregnant out of wedlock and
Throughout the period 1 May 1963 to 1 April 1966, I was fortunate to lead a very hard-working
and supportive staff — two of whom at the time of writing (1995) are still valued CNA staff
members, namely, Pat Mohr and Pierrette Hotte. Both have advanced to senior positions and
their supervisor, Beryl Darling still maintains contact. Others who contributed, significantly, were
Lillian Pettigrew (now deceased) who was Associate Executive Director; June (Ferguson)
Graeme Fraser who was Public Relations Officer; Georgina Clarke (now deceased) who was
Office Manager, and Mr. Ernest Van Raalte, who conducted the Stevenson-Kellogg study on
the structure of CNA and later became General Manager. His structural plan was approved by
the Executive Committee but was never readily understood by me. Its main purpose was to
integrate the staff of The Canadian Nurse/L’infirmiere canadienne with CNA staff. The
integration was successful but I found that having professional staff report to me through a
non-nurse was not workable. Many modifications were made and approved by the Executive
Committee. Already mentioned were two senior staff members who made a significant impact
on Canadian nursing, namely, Margaret Parkin, Librarian and Lois Graham-Cumming,
Statistician. Although I had authority to hire only a part-time Librarian, when M. Parkin came
along and would work only full-time, her expertise was essential to develop the kind of library I
had envisioned so I brought her on staff and my decision was not questioned -especially when
her sterling qualities became known to the Executive Committee.
These were some of the staff at the 74 Stanley Avenue location but, in the beginning of my
tenure at CNA, both professional and support staff were very small in number.
5.4.5 First International Initiatives
My first, major responsibility as CNA Executive Director was to attend two international
meetings. I had hardly warmed the seat of my chair when I accompanied the CNA President to
the Grand Council Meetings of International Council of Nurses (now Council of National
Representatives -CNR) held in Geneva, Switzerland in 1963. I remember well the tiny room in
John Mott House where representatives met. John Mott House is located just a few meters from
ICN’s present headquarters at 3, place Jean-Marteau (rue de l’ancien port). One of the most
controversial subjects at that, my first ICN meeting, was related to the move of ICN
headquarters from London to Geneva. Much emotion was attached to this issue as ICN began
in the U.K. where great leadership had been provided in ICN’s initial and formative years and,
indeed, up to 1963. Other items of interest to me were the ICN program relating to nursing
education and nursing service. I was fascinated to hear the comments of member presidents
from far away countries in Africa, South America, India, the Middle East, etc. This was the very
first time I had ever been in a room with so many international nurses and I was excited and
intimidated. Little did I know, at that time, what the future held for me. The financial reports were
also intriguing as we tried to work with both British Pounds and Swiss Francs. The move of ICN
staff to Geneva was also cause for tension. Pence and francs were carefully guarded. My main
role was to advise the CNA President, Electa MacLennan, but I did speak up when I had
something to add to the debate. At that meeting I also learned of the high regard with which the
Canadian delegation was held, due in no small measure to the reputation of Lester B. Pearson.
Immediately following the ICN session in Geneva, I attended meetings of the International Red
Cross Society in Lausanne, Switzerland, This time, I was on my own, representing Canada with
a senior member of the Canadian Red Cross, Helen MacArthur. Helen was well known in
international circles and was very highly respected. Once again, I was thrilled with the
international milieu. Discussions were fascinating and touched on all aspects of the work of the
International Committee of Red Cross Societies and the Red Crescent. I was much impressed
with the discussions on the Rights of Nurses under the Geneva Convention as I had little
knowledge then of the many critical situations facing nurses at that time.
As always, then and now, there were a number of elaborate receptions. I recall one that was
hosted by the head of the Canton of Viau. He spoke with me in French and uncertain English,
and I responded in English and uncertain French. He insisted on driving me, and three others,
to our hotels. He dropped the other three off, one by one, and, in doing so, passed my hotel
twice. Each time, I said “Chez moi,” but he kept driving. When my colleagues had all left, he
parked the car and my worst fears became a reality. Now, how does one handle this situation
without creating an international incident? We had a real tussle but he eventually gave up and,
as he drove me back to my hotel, he said three times, “You are a wet blankette”.
Despite his lack of fluent English, he managed to convey his summary of me very well!
Instead of returning directly to Ottawa, my staff persuaded me to “take a week off” as I had
been working a seven-day week of mostly ten to twelvehour
days. I chose to go to Paris and then on to London. All was arranged by Cooks Tours.
I saw everything a tourist should see in Paris –Le Louvre (so disappointed with the Mona Lisa;
I liked Winged Victory much better); VersaiIle, the Eiffel Tower, the Left Bank, the
magnificent cathedrals, Place Pigalle (wow!) etc.
One of my main objectives in Paris was to follow the advice of my hairdresser at Friemans
Antoinne Salon in Ottawa and visit the world’s master hairdresser, Antoine, at 3, rue Cambon, in
Paris to buy a really superior wig. We wore them often in those days … real wigs made from real
hair. I used wigs, complete with hat box, when travelling during the Pilot Project for the
Evaluation of Schools of Nursing. What an experience! I arrived at Antoine’s at 09:00 and sat in
a posh area awaiting THE MASTER. Around 10:00, a tall, fashionably-dressed man, with
painted fingernails and outlandish shoes, breezed in followed by an entourage of young men
who adoringly watched his every move. He passed the glass coffin (readied, I was told, for the
Great Man Himself) and went to the etageres returning with three wigs. Without saying a word,
he came to where I was seated, passed his painted fingernails through my hair –and said
something like “ugh”. He then flourished each wig next to my hair, as the spellbound young men
looked on, until He finally decided on one of the three. He asked that I be “preparer” for the
transformation. My own hair was washed and dried with the entourage looking on. Then THE
WIG was put on and curled on my head!?! I, and my wig, sat under the dryer and, when the
appropriate time came, I was pulled out. All the while, I wondered how much all of this would
cost as I had a limited amount of money with me and no credit card. Well, when I emerged from
under the dryer, complete with wig, I must admit it all looked good –very good. Delicately, I
asked for “l’addition” –$300 U.S. That was like $1,000 Canadian today and, luckily, I had
exactly $300 left in traveller’s cheques. I departed. No receipts. No nothing. Not at Chez
On arrival at Heathrow Airport in London, I looked for a uniformed Cook’s representative as I
had in Paris where he had spotted me right away. In London, however, I looked around and, as
no representative approached me, I picked up my luggage and headed off to hail a cab.
Noticing a man in a Cook’s uniform, I casually asked if he knew who had been sent to meet Dr.
Mussallem. Startled, he responded, “It’s me!” When I told him I was Dr. Mussallem, Executive
Director of CNA, he apologized and said he had been looking for someone who fit the picture of
an Executive Director of a women’s organization –someone “much older”. He had seen me
deplane but was sure this chic young lady in mauve chiffon and beautifully coifed hair was not
his person. What wonders Antoine had worked in Paris! My driver escorted me by Cook’s
private limousine to the elegant Mayfair Hotel and “the nightingales sang in Berkley Square”. He
told me that his evening was free and he would be delighted to take me out “privately”, i.e., at
his own expense. Amused, I said I was very tired after Paris (I wasn’t) but perhaps another time.
He gave me all the coupons and mounds of material for my London stay –and departed.
As I thought I might not see London again (my first visit had been during WWII when all the
guards were in khaki), I saw all the usual tourist sites and was impressed with the
reconstruction since the bombings I had witnessed during the war. One humorous incident took
place on my last “free” day in London. It was a grey, drizzly day and, as I had planned to go to
ICN’s headquarters on Dean Tench Street, I thought I should wear some sort of protection for
my shoes so I would not soil the carpets. I had seen pictures of the entrance hall of ICN’s
London headquarters and I didn’t think mud would look too good on those antique carpets. On
Regent Street, I spotted two middle-aged ladies waiting for a bus and asked them, very politely
and innocently, where I might buy some rubbers. Dressed in my raincoat, I followed their
directions and walked three blocks down, turned left and found a chemist’s shop. It was not until
I got there that it dawned on me that the ladies had misunderstood what I meant when I asked
for rubbers. Even though we speak the same language in both countries, there are flaws in our
On my return to Canada and CNA, there was a great accumulation of correspondence awaiting
attention, documents requiring study and action, many articles to be read, and decisions to be
made. Staff members with problems required immediate appointments, reports had to be written
for the Executive Committee, meetings of external committees must be attended, and some
social functions required my attendance. In short, there was what was to become the usual
post-field trip, back-breaking workload to deal with.
The dust had scarcely settled when I received a call from Lyle Creelman, Chief Nurse at the
World Health Organization, asking me to attend a WHO Scientific Meeting on Research in
Nursing. She made it quite clear that this was a highly-prestigious meeting attended by only a
few select experts, worldwide. As this was a WHO Scientific Group on Health, three
especially-qualified public health doctors must attend and, as it involved nursing and research,
there would also be three nurse experts in research in attendance. I was asked to be the
member from the Americas. The public health physicians were selected from the U.K., the
Middle East and Greece. I remember so fondly my flight to Geneva. It was first class all the way,
such a contrast from flying “steerage” on the old North Star planes.
That meeting, convened at WHO Headquarters in Geneva, remains in my memory one of those
extra special events. We gathered the first morning to find one of our delegates, Dr. Ewing from
the U.K., missing. Dr. Candau, WHO Director-General, greeted us at that initial meeting and
asked that a chairman be elected. After his greeting and a general outline of the goals of the
meeting, he called for nominations and the election of a Chair. First thing I knew, my name was
proposed and I was asked if I would accept the Chair. Modestly I responded, “Yes, if I am
elected.” He replied, “You have just been elected. Please take the Chair.” What I didn’t know
then was that all of this had been arranged ahead of time. After I mumbled a few words, Lyle
Creelman advised that we should wait for the U.K. representative to join us so I called for
adjournment. This gave me an opportunity to review the agenda and to determine what my
responsibilities would be during the week’s session. We reconvened about 11:00, with Dr.
Ewing present, and I made a few introductory remarks. Dr. Ewing then asked for the floor, and
floored us by advising that he was late because he failed to see the reason for the meeting.
“Surely,” he remarked, “you don’t think nurses do research. Nursing is not a pure science.”
Flabbergasted, we tried to remain calm and provide him with a rational explanation, i.e., that
nursing was an applied science and, indeed, was a subject for research. He just sat there, in a
state of gloom. When we recessed for lunch, I rushed over to the smartest and cutest member
of the group and told her that she must invite Dr. Ewing to lunch and enlighten him on nursing
research. He was more compliant after lunch, and my co-conspirator later told me he had been
resistant but listened well.
The WHO meetings were intense, with much heated debate. I recall, during one discussion, Dr.
Vellorous of Greece came forth with what I thought was a good point. As Chairman, I asked “Dr.
Vellorous, would you like to throw out that idea?” “No, Madam Chair,” he said “I want to throw it
In addition to the lengthy and exhausting sessions, each day we had to check the report being
written by the rapporteurs for accuracy, style, etc. It was a trying job but, eventually, by
Saturday morning, we had concluded the meetings and a rough draft of the report had been
written. As a reward for all of this sustained labour, we were invited to spend the weekend at
Lyle Creelman’s chalet at Champery, in nearby France. What a glorious time we had with Lyle
and Margaret Scott-Wright. We did have some difficulty in getting to the chalet, however, as part
of the road was washed out and we had to crawl along on logs with our supplies strapped to our
backs. When I arrived at the end of the log, Lyle was hysterical with laughter. She said she
couldn’t believe that the First Scientific Group on Nursing Research had fallen to the level of
crawling on logs across deep ravines –such a contrast to our lofty and proper posture at the
WHO meetings in Geneva!
The return trip to Ottawa was on Swiss Air, First Class. Life doesn’t get much better. As soon as
we reached cruising altitude, the steward came to me with a silver tray loaded with Iranian
caviar and champagne. I, of course, immediately looked at my watch but he reassured me that
it was proper to drink at that hour as, in the air, time didn’t count. That was my first real taste of
caviar and I have loved it ever since!
5.4.6 CNA Initiatives
My first two international assignments (ICN-Geneva and Red CrossLausanne)
gave me a peek into the expansive, wonderful and intriguing world of health at the national and
international level. When I returned to Ottawa and National Office internal and external work
seemed to be progressing reasonably well, I reminded the CNA President that my four month
commitment to CNA was nearing an end. She assured me that the Executive Committee was
searching for a replacement but would I consider staying, just until the June 1964 biennial
meeting. There was still much work to be done following our presentation of briefs (in 1963) to
the Special Committee on Aging, the Royal Commission on Bilingualism and Biculturalism and
the Canadian Conference on Mental Retardation. As I was able to get an extension of my leave
of absence from Vancouver General Hospital, I agreed. Little did I know then that there were
many exciting projects coming up and that I might soon have an Associate Executive Director to
share the increasingly-heavy burdens of my office.
A whole new world opened for me in 1964. CNA seemed to plunge into high gear. Among the
activities which stimulated CNA and its staff were:
– Three projects arising from the recommendations of the PPESN were getting underway:
The School Improvement Program being directed by Glenna Rowsell; The Evaluation of Quality
being directed by Lillian Campion; and the Study of Nursing Education headed by Kaspar
– Initiation of the statistical program, involving all provincial associations in the collection of
data on the total nurse population in Canada. (Prior to this, the only statistics available were the
number of nurses who belonged to their provincial nurses’ association.)
– Reactivation of the Nursing Research Index. Initial work on this project revealed that there
were over 100 known studies on nursing in Canada. These were collected and listed in a card
– The CNA/CMA/CHA Liaison Committee agreed that, whenever possible, a tripartite
approach should be made to the federal government.
– CNA established a Standing Committee on Social and Economic Welfare. Its
establishment was fraught with opposition from those provincial associations which strongly
believed that collective bargaining was “not professional”. They were deeply concerned that
nurses might even contemplate “going on strike”.
– A very active National Office Auxiliary kept me busy in an effort to find suitable tasks for
them. They were a sincere, knowledgeable group but I was unsuccessful in setting up a
– An unofficial communication from the National League tor Nursing (NLN) in the U.S.
conveyed the serious news that the NLN was considering the withdrawal of NLN exams in
jurisdictions outside the U.S. An ad hoc committee was appointed to look at ways and means of
solving this problem. Perhaps six provincial associations were using the exams for students
seeking registration in their province.
– Legal matters relating to the use, by White Sister Uniform Company, of the new CNA logo
— the leaf and the lamp – on their uniforms.
– CNA was asked to participate in Expo ’67.
– My doctoral dissertation was published with the title Development of Nursing Education
Programs Within the General Educational System of Canada
. It sold for $3.00 each and was reprinted twice.
– A strategy was developed to propose Alice Girard as President of ICN. I sent letters,
requesting support for the nomination of Alice Girard, to 58 ICN member countries. (At the 1965
Quadrennial Congress, she was elected by acclamation.)
On invitation, Alice Smith and I worked very hard to develop a Centennial Project. The plan was
to have nurses from the southern belt of Canada exchange positions with northern nurses for a
two-week period so more nurses might be attracted to “north of 60”, where they were really
needed. Alice developed an exquisite plan and presented it to the Board, using suitable visual
aids. The Board raised all sorts of obstacles, and our inspired project, which we called
“Northern Lamp”, was snuffed out.
Joint Committee of CNA/CMA/CHA
As Director of Special Studies, I soon realized that there were of number of “external” boards or
committees on which I sat by virtue of my position as CNA Executive Director. Two of these
‘Joint” boards were the Nursing Unit Administration program (CNA and CHA) and the
CMA/CNA/CHA Committee on Nursing. In 1964, at the request of CNA, the CMA/CNA/CHA
Committee on Nursing changed its name to the Joint Committee of CMA/CNA/CHA to reflect a
change in focus and to facilitate discussion on matters relating to all three organizations, rather
than on problems which dealt only with nursing.
The Nursing Unit Administration (NUA) program was unique in North America as it was
sponsored by two national, voluntary organizations. It began, prior to my tenure as Executive
Director, in response to a recognized need to upgrade the management skills of nurse
managers (head nurses) in acute care hospitals. When I became Executive Director, the course
was still in its formative stage but, due to the expertise and skill of the director of the program,
Kathleen Ruane, the program progressed “on course” and was meeting its objectives. When I
attended my first NUA meeting, I detected tension between CHA and CNA representatives.
CHA members believed that they should have sole authority in setting the direction for the
course since it was directed at head nurses in “their hospitals”. This was a futile posture,
however, since the Kellogg grant which initially founded the program had been adamant that
CNA should be an equal partner in the program.
The CMA/CNA/CHA Joint Committee on Nursing, renamed the Liaison Committee of
CMA/CNA/CHA, was, to some extent, a revelation of the emerging importance of CNA in the
tripartite world of health. CNA had equal, joint, permanent representation with CHA and CMA on
I remember well my first meeting with this tripartite group. The entire agenda was compiled of a
list of problems in nursing which the other two organizations were going to solve. I should state,
parenthetically, that this committee first came into being during periods in WWII when there was
a severe shortage of nurses in hospitals and the medical and hospital associations discussed
this problem at great length, with questionable success. When I became CNA Executive
Director, I became aware of the joint committee discussions through minutes of meetings and
other documents. I was, however, shocked to find that CNA was being placed in the position of
accepting advice from CMA and CHA as to action it should take in relation to nursing’s
problems but that CNA’s advice on the problems facing medicine and hospitals was neither
sought nor wanted. Without previous discussion with my president, Electa MacLennan, I
innocently — and boldly — asked why the problems of medicine and hospitals were not being
discussed at the meeting as well. Dr. Young, the external chair of the committee, replied that
those problems could be discussed at the next meeting. I became concerned that I might have
caused a disruption of the committee which might have serious consequences. At our next
meeting, CHA representatives appeared at the appointed time but CMA members were absent.
About 15 minutes late, in they marched — in single file, and sat down. Before the meeting could
be called to order, CMA stated its position: they were unwilling to have any discussion of CMA
concerns brought to the meeting. They would withdraw first! After somewhat cordial, if tense,
discussion of agenda items, the CMA President, Dr. Frank Turnbull, said that he did not know
the real value of the committee other than it provided an opportunity, twice yearly, for the
presidents and executive directors of the three organizations to sit across the table and have a
good, free-flowing discussion. This, he believed, was worthwhile. The day and the committee
was saved. Subsequent, recorded actions of this committee suggest that Dr. Turnbull was right.
View all posts in this series
- Autobiography Introduction - December 12, 2011
- Pilot Project for Evaluation of Schools of Nursing
- Appointment as Director of Special Studies – CNA
- Survey of 25 Schools of Nursing
- Executive Director – Canadian Nurses Association
- Canadian Nurses Foundation
- 1965 – 1966 CNA activities and CNA House - January 2, 2012
- PAHO/WHO Project in Commonwealth Caribbean - December 12, 2011
- 1965 International work
- 1969-1975 International Work - January 3, 2012
- Commonwealth Nurses Federation – West Africa, 1981 - December 12, 2011
- Encounters with Fidel Castro - December 22, 2011
- Autobiography Outline - December 12, 2011