Yesteryear: when it was an honour to serve the sick

congregation Sister's of St. Joseph

In 1978 I had the privilege of working for the Sisters of St. Joseph in Brantford, Ontario where I remained for almost twenty years.  Then, as now, each workplace had its own ambiance, and culture, but the emphasis then had an awful lot to do with respect.  Not just in Healthcare but in business.  And not just for bosses but for everyone.

Those were the days when treating employees well, resulted in happier employees and happier results.  Employee retention was important indicating a well-trained, knowledgeable, productive and stable work environment.

In those days, at least in my world, one felt valued, and performed accordingly.  Doing a good job was self-rewarding.

The Sisters lived on the fifth floor of the hospital and were an intricate part of daily hospital life.  They had a vegetable garden and often cooked up wonderful soups for everyone.  It wasn’t unusual to come on the night shift at 11 pm and find a pot of soup simmering on the stove in the kitchen of each unit.

Our motto was simple: It’s an Honour to Serve the Sick

It was printed on the bottom of all our stationary and posted on walls.  I am sure not everyone felt the same way, but I believed in that motto.  I believed in the sentiment.  I felt it. Actually I felt it long before I even knew I was going to be a nurse.  I suppose that came from years of reading books when I was younger; Dr. Tom Dooley, Florence Nightingale.

I wasn’t a young naïve child when I went to work there.  In 1978 I was thirty-one.  It was just part of my nature to embrace the core value of nursing, as I saw it.

Now they weren’t true Halcion days, with constant joy, but looking at today’s work environments and standards of care it, they were the best of years.

Pretty soon some dim bulb decided that our faith based care had to become more businesslike.  The nuns were ousted to residence at the Mother House in Hamilton, and the fifth floor became offices.

The motto was thrown out, and ridiculous lengthy pretend words were posted denoting, Mission, Vision, and Values. (All of which took meetings on meetings on meetings to create).  The energy that was spent in delivering care to patients, staff, and families, and community was now spent in – yup you guessed it – in meetings.

The Ministry of Health changed funding and doctors and patient conditions no longer determined length of stay.  The running joke was, ‘It’s an Honour to Serve the Sick in five days or less’.

In any healthcare facility today you will see all kinds of information posted.  How many falls occurred per unit, per month, per year – interventions of the same.  Charts on infections, use of antibiotics – information ad nauseum.

This is what I call CYA.  Cover Your Ass with the Ministry.  Remember in Harry Potter that some Ministries were evil?  My thoughts exactly on our ‘Ministries’.

Have you any idea the professional dollars wasted on the positions putting together this information in a deemed acceptable fashion that could be used to give direct care?

STOP THE JUSTIFICATIONS I want to yell. You are not convincing anybody.  Least of all me.

I believed in Care and Caring.  And don’t let anyone tell you it is the same thing.  Care is something you deliver to those in need.  Caring is the way you do it.

I believed a good employer cares for and looks after his clients AND his employees.

I believed It’s an Honour to Serve the Sick.

I guess I still do.

*Sadly this hospital closed in the 90’s at a time when Ontario shut down many hospitals across the province.  I was actually sitting on a committee in Queen’s Park before that happened and when discussion came up about closures it never occurred to me that my hospital would be on the list.

** Of course I was also the one who said in 1970 that the new coffee shop, known as Tim Horton’s would never succeed.  It just never occurred to me that anyone would leave home to pay for coffee.

Oh well….

****Throughout writing this my mind has sifted through many memories of my Nun friends and what they taught me, but mostly my mind had been on Sister Patricia Valeriote, so this is a shout out to her.

*** These were my thoughts five years ago. Then as now. Sigh

So from North of 43 I wonder if there are in fact positive changes that i don’t see?

Chris G April 23rd ’22

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One is about 43 degrees latitude N. and longitude 80 W, The other almost equidistant south latitude and longitude 174 E. Two women, two minds, different personalities and experiences, choosing a life of meaning, continual growth and learning, at the same time negating ageist opinions of exactly what ‘an old lady’ should be.

26 thoughts on “Yesteryear: when it was an honour to serve the sick”

  1. Chris, I think the Greek god of money has taken over from the care and caring of which you write. We do have a very good health service here and as you know, a few years ago I had a short stay in the regional hospital. Caring and happy stuff but of course that was before the onset of Covid which has caused so much overwork among health staff that I suspect that wouldn’t be the case now. And it does seem that these staff members are not respected by the powers that be. While the administrators sit in their ivory towers, the nurses have to argue and fight for every little thing. Thanks for this post Chris,

    Liked by 1 person

  2. THIS is something all student nurses (doctors, aides, anyone in health care) should read. It gave me comfort to read it, and longing for it to be so. Healthcare is no longer about care, you are so right, it is about business.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. I sure hope. I am sickened by the fact that insurance companies and big pharma run our health care. I love the mantra the Sisters live by. We should all strive to attain some of that, even if we aren’t in health care.

        Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Cathie, yes I believe there are very caring Health Care Professionals but I believe they are not given the tools to apply that Care and Caring. It seems they insist staff must always work to the max. Such pressure is applied to perform constantly at the highest level. I think the staff are as good as they have always been.


  3. When I left school in 1971,the options for many of my classmates were nursing, air hostessing or teaching. One girl became a judge. But we all went on to serve society in some way. Respect was ingrained into all of us. Your story makes me so sad. Because vision values etc on a notice board do not a happy or efficient workplace make. I run a care home for old people. Our mantra is – this is your family , your home. Our staff seem to embrace this idea and treat the residents with the respect and even love they would to their grandparents. Our home manager works tirelessly to make sure the staff is valued and mutual respect is obvious.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Sad post but too true not to be told. It’s not just in the “care and caring” world but in all of the working world. There are privately owned businesses of all types that have high standards. But, in general, will it ever go back to the way it was? Hope so but doubt it will.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. Aw, your caring heart shines in this post. I agree with you. Unfortunately, we’ve made caring for people a business instead of healing, helping them, and doing no harm, etc. We have Big Pharma and the insurance companies who fund them to blame. Time to vote the wrong people out of office. 😉

    Liked by 2 people

  6. I can relate to so much of this. Overnight, it seemed, everything was about the bottom dollar. Charge the patient for their “admission kits,” every replacement box of tissues, every 4X4, and on and on. And all that “business” jargon that came with it. All the higher ups became VPs of something. And the nurse at the bedside literally got lost. We old time nurses could emote for hours on the changes—many of them not for the best.

    Liked by 2 people

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