Canadian Nursing History Collection Online Medal - 2000.111.102 - CD2004-0369 / D2004-6127
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Types of Objects

Hospital Uniforms

Thirty-seven uniforms from nursing schools across Canada are included, beginning with the uniform that Edna Muir wore [photograph 2000.111.421.25] while training at the Montreal Western Hospital between 1917 and 1920. Until the 1970s, most nurses trained as apprentices at hospitals, providing the main labour force for the institution. Each hospital designed its own uniform for its apprentice nurses.

Muir's uniform consisted of an ankle-length dress [uniform dress 2000.111.421.1] with detachable collar and cuffs, a huge starched apron covering most of the front of the dress, and a mushroom-shaped cap proudly proclaiming her professional status. The dress material is printed with the hospital initials.

Edna Muir - 2000.111.421.25 - CD2001-379-095 Uniform - 2000.111.421.1, .2a, .6, .12 and .27 - CD2004-0369 / D2004-6130 Uniform - 2000.111.421.1 - CD2004-0369 / D2004-6126
CMC 2000.111.421.25 CMC 2000.111.421 CMC 2000.111.421.1
( detail )

Nurses' uniforms changed drastically over the next few decades. The great starched aprons were discarded, and hems and sleeves were shortened. Uniform styles [e.g. uniform dress 2000.111.377] sometimes reflected the current mode, although usually in a highly conservative way. Student nurses sometimes wore pink [e.g. uniform dress 2000.111.382], blue or checked cloth uniforms, to distinguish their status from graduate nurses dressed in white.

Uniform - 2000.111.377 - CD2001-382-038 Uniform - 2000.111.382 - CD2001-382-045 Cape - 2000.111.381 - CD2001-379-021
CMC 2000.111.377 CMC 2000.111.382 CMC 2000.111.381

For outer wear, nurses wore a garment dating back to the nineteenth century: the cape [e.g. uniform cape 2000.111.381]. The collection includes nine capes; most are navy blue with brilliant red lining, embroidered with hospital initials.

During the 1970s, hospital schools of nursing, based on apprenticeship learning, began to give way to community college and university training. Hospital rules about wearing uniforms became less strict and, eventually, uniforms were phased out altogether. Today, most nurses wear their own choice of work clothing, usually a pantsuit or comfortable surgery "scrub suits." In the 1970s, perhaps in anticipation of this change, the MacMaster School of Nursing in Moncton, New Brunswick, designed a uniform much like the ubiquitous pantsuit we see today [e.g. uniform shirt 2000.111.497.1; uniform pants 2000.111.497.2].

Uniform - 2000.111.497.1 (tunic); 2000.111.497.2 (Pants) - CD2004-0369 / S2004-658 Uniform - 2000.111.497.1 (tunic) - CD2004-0369 / S2004-657
CMC 2000.111.497.1
CMC 2000.111.497.2
CMC 2000.111.497.1
( detail )

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Medal - 2000.111.102 - CD2004-0369 / D2004-6127