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Joan Doree Establishes New Bursary for Aspiring Nurses

Joan Doree celebrated her 94th birthday in January. Born in England in 1919, Joan moved with her family at the age of six months to Saskatchewan. Many years later, Joan would become an elected member of the Registered Nurses Association of British Columbia and hold two terms on the Board. Through her involvement in these activities, Joan is a founding member of the Registered Nurses Foundation of British Columbia (RNFBC) for the education and advancement of nurses.

Last year, Joan established the Mabel and Henry Doree Family Memorial Bursary, an annual bursary with RNFBC, to promote the knowledge, skill, and compassion of future nurses. The bursary is close to Joan’s heart for a number of significant reasons, which mirror Joan’s life and career as a nurse.

The bursary was established in memory and in honour of Joan’s parents, Mabel and Henry Doree and the Doree Family. Joan was the second eldest child of a family of four children. Joan’s siblings were Rosa Lillian Silverlock, Emily Isabel May, and Arthur Henry. Interestingly enough, both Rosa and Emily also became nurses. After serving in the Royal Canadian Air Force in World War II, Joan’s brother Arthur became a high school teacher.

Joan felt it is important that her parents be remembered through the bursary as they first invested in her education in nursing during the worldwide economic depression and when many families could not invest in the education and careers of their children, particularly the careers of young women. She credits her mother and father for the financial support she received to enter St. Paul’s Hospital School of Nursing in Saskatchewan in 1937. Joan’s father cashed in a portion of his life insurance policy to receive the $100 needed for Joan to attend the school of nursing “during a time in which half the men in Saskatoon were unemployed or reduced to half time”. Joan’s father’s salary was cut three times. “My father and my brother carried all of my worldly possessions in an old family suitcase for two miles taking turns from the outskirts of the city to St. Paul’s Hospital School of Nursing in Saskatchewan.” Many small hospitals had closed down and many registered nurses were unemployed. At this time, Joan explains there were limited choices for careers for women. Nursing was called “the career of the poor man’s daughter.” Three years later, Joan received her initial nursing education from St. Paul’s Hospital School of Nursing.

Joan felt it was important to establish the bursary to ensure an aspiring nurse, and other aspiring nurses, wishing to complete a BSC in Nursing have the opportunity to do so despite financial difficulties and the costs associated with obtaining a nursing degree.
Joan has always been a supporter of the advancements made in nursing. “Nurses today can now receive a proper education whereas the focus in 1937 for nursing students was staffing the hospital and caring for patients without a focus on the education of the nurse”, says Joan. “Hospital nursing schools staffed their hospitals with students and education was secondary to the reality that they needed the medical assistance. Hospitals and schools of nursing were very undemocratic in attitudes and practice. Some were better and some were worse. The biggest problem was the narrowness of the nurses’ education. Education should have exposed students to new ideas and this was not true. It was strictly focused on the needs of the hospital.” Joan explains students worked seven days a week and sick time was not an option with the exception of adding the missed time.
Later when Joan completed her degree at UBC, Joan’s friend worked with the Royal Columbian Hospital in a teaching position; and, she arranged for the students as part of their obstetrical work to do follow-up work with pregnant women before they were admitted to the hospital for delivery. Joan recalls, “This was forbidden by administration as it took away from the hospital. Nurses had plenty of responsibility but no authority for seriously ill patients in the hospital and patients in the community”.
As a student at the time, Joan was passionate about the value of the promotion and prevention of illness and disease in health care and the importance of the individual’s role in their own health care. Joan would come to know the value of learning from her patients along with other nurses and health professionals throughout her career.
After graduating from St. Paul’s Hospital School of Nursing, Joan went on to work at Prelate General Hospital, a small hospital in Saskatchewan. She then went on to work at St. Michael’s Hospital in Lethbridge, Alberta. Joan went on to practice at Vancouver General Hospital when she received a call to go overseas. Joan served overseas as a Lieutenant Nursing Sister in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps from 1944 to 1946. In this role, she served overseas for one year at a specialized unit of the Canadian Army, Neurological and Plastic Surgery Hospital and Psychiatric Unit followed by six months at a Canadian military hospital at Taplow, England at the estate of Lady Astor. Following the war, Joan worked for six months at The Canadian Army of Occupation at Oldenburg Germany at #7 Hospital.
Joan returned to Canada in the summer of 1946 on the Ile de France. When she returned from the war, Joan enrolled in the University of British Columbia (UBC). She also worked for Shaughnessy Army Veteran’s Hospital for one year. While studying at the University of British Columbia, Joan worked part-time at St. Paul’s Hospital in Vancouver as a nurse. She successfully completed her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing at UBC in 1949.
After completing her BSC in Nursing, Joan worked at the Vancouver City Health Department as a staff nurse. She was then promoted to Liaison Nurse and then Supervisor overseeing staff nursing. Through a Federal Health Training Grant, Joan graduated with a Masters Degree in Public Health Administration from the University of California, Berkeley in September 1967.
After graduating, Joan returned to work as Supervisor while continuing to work in prevention and public health through the Vancouver City Health Department.
Joan refers to “three lucky breaks” of financial support during the course of her nursing education and advancing her nursing career. She credits her mother and father for the financial support she received to enter St. Paul’s Hospital School of Nursing in Saskatchewan in 1937. Joan also credits the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (DVA) credits for helping with the completion of her Bachelor’s Degree in Nursing. When veterans returned from the war, the Department of Veterans Affairs (DVA) gave them an allowance for an education, a house or a small business. Joan opted for the university education at UBC. Her third lucky break was a Federal Health Training Grant, the only one of its kind in Canada, to pay her tuition and $200 per month towards basic living costs to complete her Masters in Public Health Administration at the University of California, Berkeley.
Joan hopes the first Mabel and Henry Doree Family Memorial Bursary and the ones to follow will be the “luck break” of financial support needed by aspiring nurses committed to nursing and aspiring to complete a BSC Nursing Degree.