Several visitors to the museum had this question stuck in their minds: Did the Augustinians have nursing degrees or diplomas? Until the beginning of the 20th century, the Augustinians, responsible for taking care of people who were ill, trained among themselves through mimicry-based learning—by copying what their elders showed them. The medical revolution near the end of the 19th century caused hospital requirements to increase, so the Augustinians had to go to school!
Doctor Aherner: A visionary
Dr. Michael Joseph Ahern founded the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec School of Nursing in January 1904. Dr. Ahern was well-known in the hospital as a skilled surgeon. He used to perform the most delicate operations! He was also one of the first doctors to implement principles of asepsis and antisepsis at the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec. Dr. Ahern was the only professor at the school until his death in 1914. His successor was Arthur Rousseau, who solicited the help of three other colleagues a few years later. In 1933, the School of Nursing became affiliated with Université Laval. After that, some Augustinians took higher levels of education such as bachelor’s degrees or certificates.
A variety of training
What did nursing education look like at that time? The curriculum had three sections: religious, educational and professional. The teaching corps included both nuns and laypeople. The goal was for the nurses to acquire the know-how of their profession while maintaining good general culture. Special attention was given to teaching in the French language. There were history and French literature courses in the curriculum as well.
The times are a changing! Make way for secular professionals!
In 1950, the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec School of Nursing opened its doors to secular professionals. It was no longer necessary to be a nun in order to graduate. In the 1960s, the Parent Commission led to the creation of CEGEPs, which soon offered nursing education. The Hôtel-Dieu de Québec’s School of Nursing finally closed its doors in 1972, after 68 years of existence. It should be noted, however, that it trained 1,343 nurses, including 290 Augustinians.
Although the Augustinians of the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec no longer practice in the hospital, they still continue to support the sick, whether by prayer or by spending time with patients at the Hôtel-Dieu de Quebec. They no longer take care of bodies, but they keep themselves occupied caring for souls!
An anatomy lesson at the School of Nursing, circa 1960.
© Archives du Monastère des Augustines
Alix Vallerand, Tour Guide, Musée du Monastère des Augustines.