Appointment as Director of Special Studies – CNA

Now the study was completed, the report presented to membership at the 1960 Biennial meeting, and three of the four recommendations were approved by the Executive Committee at their post convention meeting. I was asked to stay on CNA staff for one more year to implement the three recommendations of the Pilot Project.

I advised the Executive of my plans to return to Teachers College to complete my doctorate. I knew my financial resources were very slim but I was determined to complete the remainder of the two year doctoral study. They agreed that I should return to Teachers College for one semester and, when needed, fly to CNA for meetings to implement the three projects. This I did.

The amount paid for those days at CNA assisted greatly in buying books and food. My return trip to Teachers College was made with the now president Helen Carpenter, also a student at Teachers College.

The 1960 biennial meeting was over and an exhilarated Helen started on her return to Teachers College for the fall semester. She decided that the two Helens should go by bus to see the Acadian country and visit her relatives in Yarmouth. On their arrival, however, Helen Carpenter developed a serious chest condition and her uncle, a physician, ordered her to stay in bed. The doctor, a delightful gentleman of 91 years, was still practicing medicine and administering anaesthetics too. He told Helen Mussallem that he still used chloroform by the drip method. She was duly impressed –and amazed. Helen stayed with the Carpenters for an extra day but, as her friend was not improving, decided to try and figure out a way to get from Yarmouth to New York in time for registration and classes. She took the ferry to Portland Maine, getting incredibly seasick on the voyage, and eventually, via bus and train, made it to Whittier Hall in New York.

Whittier Hall was strictly a women’s residence, but Helen chose to live there so she would not be distracted by the many social activities at International House, and besides, she was closer to the library. Studying at the doctoral level was going to be a full-time job –especially as Dr. Anderson had mapped out a plan “to get her through” as quickly as possible. Helen was aware of her many commitments in Canada. She had completed one semester and was now returning for the second. She would then return to Canada for one year to collect data for her dissertation and carry out her new responsibilities as Director of Special Studies tor CNA, including implementation of three of the four recommendations of the Pilot Project.

5.2.2 Development of Plan to Implement 3 of 4 recommendations of Pilot Project

On her return to Canada, project directors were recruited. Dr. Kaspar Naegle was engaged as Project Director for;

– Recommendation 1: “That a re-examination and study of the whole field of nursing education be undertaken”.

– Recommendation 2: “That a school improvement program be initiated to assist schools in upgrading their educational programs.”

Helen recruited Glenna Rowsell, already on CNA staff. Lillian Campion was persuaded to assume the position of Project Director to implement

– Recommendation 3: “That a program be established for evaluating the quality of nursing service in areas where students in schools of nursing receive their clinical experience”. As Director of Special Studies, Helen was responsible for the overall supervision of these projects.

– Recommendation 4: “That a program of accreditation for schools of nursing be developed by the Canadian Nurses Association” was held in abeyance pending completion of the other three projects.

5.3 Royal Commission

5.3.1 CNA Project and RCHS project on Nursing Education combined

At this time, there was also general concern about the whole health care system. In 1961, a Royal Commission on Health Services was established with Justice Emmett Hall as Chair. It was the Commission’s intention to include an examination of the whole field of nursing and nursing education. It seemed logical, therefore, that Recommendation 1 on the whole field of nursing education be assumed by the person carrying out the examination for the Royal Commission. Dr. Naegle was a superb sociologist and scholar and Helen was delighted that he would be directing the project on nursing education for both CNA and the RCHS.

5.3.2 Royal Commission on Health Services Project Director

The study for the Royal Commission on Health Services in Canada was an exciting and rewarding experience for Helen. The territory was familiar, but greatly expanded, from the report of the Pilot Project. It included not only diploma schools of nursing but university schools, nursing assistant programs, psychiatric nurse programs, operating room technician programs and midwifery courses. She especially enjoyed the field work which required many trips across Canada and her working relationship with researchers and RCHS staff, to whom she was responsible. Helen had been seconded to the RCHS by CNA from the summer of 1962 to May of 1963. The final report was published in 1964.

During the summer of 1962, CNA received a grant from Kellogg to create a Foundation and award fellowships. Applications were received from students and immediate awards needed to be made or the money for the current year would be lost. Katherine McLaggan, the prime mover in obtaining the grant, was responsible for forming a Selections Committee and, as it was August and no one else was readily available to meet with a committee, Helen was recruited.

She met with Katherine in her room at the Chateau Laurier in Ottawa where all the student applicant files were piled on the bed. While they were developing selection criteria for the awards, Helen was called to the Daly Building to meet with the Director of Research for the Royal Commission on Health Services and sign the contract for her study. While there, she met Mr. B. Blishen, Director of Research and Dr. Malcolm Taylor, Research Consultant. Dr. Taylor wished to speak with her at length and seemed slightly annoyed when Helen told him of her other responsibilities with Katherine McLaggan. When she related her encounter with Dr. Taylor to Katherine, she was told to phone him immediately and invite him to dinner. As he was already booked for dinner, Helen invited him to the Jasper Lounge for cocktails, where Katherine McLaggan used the encounter to great advantage, immersing him in the grave problems of nursing education. Helen’s role was to see that drinks were served without question and to be discreet about paying the bill. This being the pre-credit card era, she gave the waiter a $10 bill –ample for drinks in those days. She instructed the waiter carefully to serve as many drinks as requested. He did –but only one each –and, before Helen could get up to retrieve her change, minus tip, he brought the change to their table and plunked it down in front of her.

Helen was so embarrassed and Dr. Taylor was not amused. In those days, men always looked after the bill. After the drinks fiasco and dinner, Helen and Katherine went for a walk through the quiet Ottawa streets. Helen asked if Katherine had ever seen the face of the nurse at the back of the War Memorial. She hadn’t, so they scrunched around to get a better view. Just as Helen was pushing Katherine up the monument for a better look, the loud voice of a policeman shouted, “You ladies get down immediately or I will turn you in!” They both slid down ignominiously and vanished into the night. Up to the time she died, Katherine would recall this incident with great glee. During this period, and on into the 70s, Helen received many offers to assume the deanship of a university school of nursing or to become director of nursing at several large hospitals. She found only one offer tempting –to be director of the School of Nursing at the University of British Columbia. Even though CNA was planning to host the 1969 International Council of Nurses Congress in Montreal, Helen was assured CNA would wait for her. Negotiations continued.

As the School of Nursing had been on the UBC campus since 1916 and as two other health science faculties had been created at the university, the faculties of medicine and pharmacy, one of Helen’s requirements, an important one, was that the UBC School of Nursing also become a faculty. The negotiator sadly advised her that no change could be made as there already were too many faculties on campus. Finally, he arrived with what he termed “good news”. The Board of Governors had agreed that if Helen returned to UBC, the School of Nursing would become a faculty. Helen was delighted and asked to have the promise in writing.

This was impossible as the Board of Governors did not write such letters relating to the hiring of faculty! So Helen never accepted the UBC position and often wonders, if she had, what a different life she might have led. But that’s skipping way ahead of 1962. Let’s back up.