Academic journal article Nursing History Review

Come from Away: Nurses Who Immigrated to Newfoundland and Labrador

Academic journal article Nursing History Review

Come from Away: Nurses Who Immigrated to Newfoundland and Labrador

Article excerpt

Come from Away: Nurses Who Immigrated to Newfoundland and Labrador By Jeanette Walsh and Marilyn Beston (St. John's, Newfoundland: Breakwater Books Ltd, 2011) (285 pages, $18.95 CAN paper)

Using the traditions of oral history, the authors interviewed 41 nurses who came from foreign countries to Newfoundland and Labrador between the years 1953 and 2007 to ease the nursing shortage. Their stories add to our knowledge of nursing in the province, in rural areas as well as in St John's, seen through the eyes of nurses trained in Europe (primarily the United Kingdom), the United States, Africa, Vietnam, and the Philippines. Previous books by these authors (reviewed in Nursing History Review, Volume 19) told the stories of nurses who were educated in Newfoundland.

Although the authors acknowledge that oral history can be tainted by flawed recollections, the themes resonate. Frequently, these nurses had little idea of where Newfoundland was prior to agreeing to accept a position there. They found many differences in nursing practice, particularly in their scope of responsibility. Some expressed that nurses in Newfoundland lacked autonomy, especially in what they viewed as basic nursing care, such as providing hot water bottles and laxatives. The midwives also felt that they were not used to the full extent of their training. In contrast, in the rural areas, they practiced skills such as pulling teeth, which they had never envisioned. Situating their stories in the socioeconomic context of the province, with its strong connection to the sea and fishing as a livelihood, and the rural isolation, helps us to understand their experiences. Many of these nurses stayed in Newfoundland because they married local men. They described not only their nursing experience but also their integration into the community, especially their growing respect for their independent self sufficient neighbors.

The book's chapters are divided into regions, which loosely corresponds to whether the nurses worked in a rural or more urban setting. The experiences of the earliest nurses (1950s) describe working long hours in cottage hospitals in isolated outports, often beyond the scope of their training, such as administering anesthesia. …

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