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The Legacy of Mary Bernadet Ratsoy, 1936 – 2009

Bernadet loved her many roles in Health Care. She also loved music, history, the theatre, and playing tennis. But first and foremost, at heart, Bernadet was a Nurse and Educator. She made a tremendous positive impact on the nursing profession at both the provincial and national level. Of all her accomplishments during her distinguished career, she was most proud of her mentorship of other nurses. Throughout many years, she received cards from nurses who felt that she helped them in some very meaningful way in their working lives. All her work was directed toward supporting nurses so that they could be better at what they did: “nurses need to be supported and need to have control over the work they do because this has a critical effect on patient care.”

Born on October 24, 1936, Bernadet grew up in Edmonton, Alberta and graduated from the Edmonton, General Hospital School of Nursing in 1957. Soon after graduating she began her nursing career as a staff nurse in Obstetrics at the Misericordia Hospital in Edmonton. In 1958 she married Edward and in 1960 the couple moved to Vancouver. Her 28-year career with St. Paul’s Hospital Vancouver, began in early 1961. She was the first staff nurse in the Emergency and Obstetric departments and then Head Nurse in the Newborn Nursery in 1963, Clinical Instructor of Obstetrics in 1966, and Clinical Coordinator responsible for Infection Control, Ambulatory Care Services and Obstetrics from 1968 to 1979. She initiated and was responsible for developing the Family Centered Maternity Care Program at St. Paul’s in 1972, along with the space renovations required to implement it. This new service was one of the first in Canada and was designated by the provincial government as the only alternate program to the (then) Grace Maternity Hospital in Vancouver.

Among her many accomplishments at St. Paul’s Hospital are the development of a nationally recognized department of nursing that was known for its quality of care, innovative approaches and support of staff nurses, extending orientations for newly graduated nursing practitioners, leading a rapid and effective response to the AIDS epidemic in Vancouver, and initiating a Staff Nurses Journal Club for recognition and professional development of senior nurses that celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2001. In 1990 it was renamed the Bernadet Ratsoy Journal Club. Bernadet served as Director of Nursing and then Vice President of Nursing at St. Paul’s Hospital from 1979 to 1989.

Bernadet obtained her Baccalaureate Degree from UBC in 1968. Wanting to have a greater impact on B.C. nursing practice, she enrolled in the Master of Science Degree program in Health Sciences Planning and Administration at UBC graduating in 1981, much of this accomplished while working full time.

In 1989 Bernadette left St. Paul’s Hospital to become the Executive Director of the Alberta Association of Registered Nurses. In 1991 she returned to British Columbia to become Associate Dean in the School of Health Sciences at BCIT. She held this position until she retired in 2002. As Associate Dean of Healthcare at BCIT from 1991 to 2002, Bernie’s legacy includes the advancement of the nursing curriculum to a BSCN degree and the advancement and recognition of BCIT’s Specialty Nursing certificates and degree.

Bernadet served as the President of the RNABC (Registered Nurses Association of B.C.) now CNRBC (Canadian Registered Nurses Association of B.C.) from 1983 to 1985. She also was a member of the Board of the Registered Nurses Foundation of British Columbia from 1996 to 2000 and provided leadership to the Board as the RNFBC President from 2003 to 2005.

In 2002 Bernadette received the RNABC recognition Award for her valuable contributions to the nursing profession in BC and in 2003 Bernadet received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Health Care Leaders Association of BC.

The M. Bernadet Ratsoy Memorial Bursary was established in 2010 in memory of M. Bernadet (Kiss) Ratsoy by her husband Edward with contributions from both Edward and her many colleagues and friends. The intent of the bursary is to award at least $1000.00 annually to a BC Registered Nurse who is committed to Nursing and seeking further education leading to a master’s or doctoral degree with emphasis on Health Care Management or Emphasis in Obstetrics or Pediatrics.

With all her many accomplishments in advancing nursing practice and study in BC and across Canada, Bernadet will be remembered for many years to come and her memory will be honoured in many ways through the recipients of the M. Bernadet Ratsoy Memorial Bursary.

Written by Sheri Urquhart and Edward Ratsoy and based on Mary Bernadet’s
Ratsoy’s Eulogy written by Edward Ratsoy and on an interview of Bernadet by Valerie Ogliv, UBC School of Nursing in June, 2009. Photos provided by Edward Ratsoy.