Skip to main content

“Sounds Like All Work and No Play – But We Made Our Own Fun”

Two women in nurses' uniforms wearing gloves and washing at a series of sinks.

Clean-up room in the outpatient clinic.

May I formally present the need for a reduction of student hours in our School of Nursing. The student nurses are presently working a 48 hour week. From both the health and educational point of view, this does not seem wise.

Letter from Jessie Young, director of nursing, to Mrs. Gordon Graham, president of the board of directors, October 19, 1955


Nursing students did not pay tuition. In exchange for their education and room and board, student nurses worked in the patient wards – commonly referred to as “on the wards.” Student nurses followed strict schedules created by Canada’s schools of nursing.

During the 1920s, throughout Canada, a student nurse’s average day was as follows:
9 hours on duty
8 hours of sleeping
2 hours of recreation
2 hours of eating meals
1 ½ hours of classroom work
1 ½ hours of study

Four women at a table piled with books. A fifth reaches for a bookshelf.

Student nurses’ library.

At Women’s College Hospital, students also were allowed one afternoon of personal time weekly and four to five hours off on Sunday. Students were given a total of six weeks of vacation during their entire three-year program.

Listen to Pat, Class of 1958, tell the story of Margaret’s Christmas break… in November!

Audio clip with transcript: Pat talks about Margaret’s Christmas break.