Executive Director – Canadian Nurses Association

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

Board Meetings.

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


Board Meeting.

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

22-26, 1963.

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.


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


___________________________ __________________________

Secretary Chairman

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

across Canada.

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

required rehabilitation.

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

meaningful program.

– 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

this committee.

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.

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