Canadian Nurses Foundation

My relationship with the Canadian Nurses Foundation (CNF) was interesting and varied from great hope to despair as to its future and its goal of providing selected nurses with the opportunity to pursue graduate education. My commitment and dedication to this goal was another spin-off from my cross-Canada surveys of nursing education in both hospital and university schools of nursing. I knew that, if nursing service was to improve, the education of nurses for that service must, likewise, be improved. Along with many other “senior” nurses, I recognized that advanced education for nurses was imperative if nurses were to be accepted as an equal voice in the decision-making circles of the health care system. A personal note adds validity to this statement. As CNA’s Director of Special Studies (1960-63) I attended the CMA CHA CNA Committee meetings to report on the status of nursing education in Canada and to describe to the committee the projects undertaken by CNA which had been initiated as a result of the recommendations of my Pilot Project on the Evaluation of Schools of Nursing. The first meeting I attended was held at CMA headquarters in Toronto. The group from CNA entered the committee room through the side door. All other representatives seemed to come from somewhere else. At the next meeting, after I obtained my doctorate in 1962, I was met at the front door by the CMA General Secretary. I was astounded to be ushered in, to walk on the richly-carpeted hallway, and to be told that the CMA president would like to see me. Three times I was referred to as DOCTOR Mussallem. Then, I was taken to the committee room at the rear of the building. I was suspicious that my doctorate (the first earned by a nurse in Canada) might have been responsible for this unusual gesture and the CNA Executive Director, Penny Stiver, confirmed my suspicion.

In 1961, while I was Director of Special Studies, the CNA Executive Committee -influenced, perhaps, by the findings of the Pilot Project for Evaluation of Schools of Nursing –decided that “… the time had come when the Canadian Nurses Association should consider establishing a foundation”. A Special Committee, called the Canadian Nurses Association Foundation, was created in 1961 to work out the details necessary to establish such a foundation.

In February 1962, the Special Committee, Canadian Nurses’ Association Foundation, presented its report. The Executive Committee decided at this meeting that the Foundation would be known as the Canadian Nurses Foundation (CNF), and that its purposes would be: to provide financial support in the form of awards to nurses pursuing graduate studies at the masters and doctoral levels; to provide grants for nursing research; and to administer funds donated to the Foundation for the above purposes. CNF came into being in 1962 when the Kellogg Foundation awarded CNA a donation of $150,000 (U.S.). The preparation of the brief for the Kellogg Foundation requesting $150,000 (U.S.) for the establishment of CNF (and the accompanying strategies) and CNA’s success in obtaining these funds – to be spread over a five year period –was due primarily to the expert and scholarly work of Katherine MacLaggan. The CNA Executive Committee was preparing to have this Foundation set up within CNA but as the Kellogg Foundation required a receipt from a “charitable” agency for income tax purposes, a foundation was created by CNA to facilitate this request. In the early years of the Foundation, office space and administrative services were provided by CNA.

When the Kellogg grant arrived in Ottawa, CNF was advised that the amount allocated for 1962 scholarships must be awarded before the end of August 1962. Word of the new scholarships was disseminated and a number of applications were received at CNA headquarters. Then, I gather, a Selections Committee needed to be appointed. As it was early August, few staff or other suitable persons were available. I had just successfully defended my doctoral dissertation at Columbia and had returned to Ottawa, as promised. On arrival, I was advised that I was to work with Katherine MacLaggan to select the first “scholars”.

At the appointed time, I met with Katherine in her room at the Chateau Laurier. We worked very hard to develop criteria and to assess each application. A decision had to be made. Should all applications be ranked and scholarships awarded to only the top few, or should we ensure that each application was “worthy of an award” and spread the money over the qualified candidates? After assuring ourselves that each candidate merited an award, we chose the latter option. Two applications were rejected due to incomplete documentation. All the monies for 1962 were disseminated and, in retrospect, I believe we did an exceptional job.

In May of 1963, when I became CNA Executive Director, I inherited the responsibility for the administration of CNF. The monies from Kellogg were well used on fellowship and scholarship awards as, initially, CNA bore the entire administrative costs. However, the CNF Board, composed of half CNF members and half CNA members, had great ideas about CNF’s potential as a free-standing organization without CNA connections or controls. The CNF Board was appointed, and the part-time Executive Director (Lois Graham-Cumming) designated a member in each province as a CNF representative. The provincial associations were by-passed and, indeed, CNF attempted to set up an organization as “strong and powerful” as CNA. They would be free to solicit large sums of money for CNF and not “be hampered” by CNA. This “completely separate” organization did not survive for long and, in 1966, CNF became more closely allied with CNA while maintaining its separate identity as required by the Letters Patent. I later became Executive Secretary/Treasurer of CNF.

One of CNF’s perennial problems was always to find sufficient funds to maintain the scholarship program. The need was very great and hardly any other monies were available for nursing students studying at the masters or doctoral level. When the Kellogg money ran out, great efforts were made to obtain more funds but results were dismal. Each Selections Committee was faced with the problem of making awards with shrinking budgeted funds. One year, in the early 70s, when Glennis Zilm, Assistant Editor, was writing an article for The Canadian Nurse, she asked me what would be done at the next Selections Committee as funds were so low. I said, “Let’s go for broke!” She published my remark and, due to the efforts of provincial associations (some gave a yearly donation based on membership), the funds grew and then stabilized. It was a real roller coaster ride and I spent many of my precious “extra hours” doing CNF work. Often, I was asked why I worked so hard for CNF. My answer was honest and simple. When I studied for my masters and doctoral degrees with a very small income –having to decide between buying a book or eating dinner –I became dedicated to doing what I could, in my lifetime, to prevent others from facing similar circumstances.

2012 On the way to CNF Annual Gala