It has been crucial in the aftermath of events such as the outbreak of polio, the worst floods of the century and the H1N1 flu virus.
And now, after the immeasurable contribution of Manitoba’s registered nurses throughout communities across the province, the Fort Rouge-based College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba is celebrating its 100th anniversary this year, which it kicked off with a gala evening at the Fort Garry Hotel on Feb. 15.
Things have come a long way for the regulatory body in the last 100 years. In 1913, Manitoba became the second province to receive registration legislation for nurses, which meant nursing became recognized as a profession and nursing education became standardized to ensure quality patient care. In 1915, the CRNM had 30 members. Today, it has more than 13,000 (at Dec. 31, 2011, 92.4% of members were female and 7.6% male).
A century later, the organization continues to evolve and look to the future. One development on the horizon is the push to allow some registered nurses to soon prescribe certain drugs for specific patient populations, said Cathy Rippin-Sisler, CRNM’s president.
"The role of the registered nurse has evolved in the last 100 years in terms of changes related to health care," said Rippin-Sisler, who lives in Linden Woods. "For about 10 years, we’ve had nurse practitioners. Now, on the horizon, we talking about nurse prescribers, who will take additional coursework about medications."
"We’re talking about limited settings. For example, some nurses who work in travel health would be able to prescribe medications for travellers. The College of Registered Nurses would provide the regulatory framework to address the educational, registration, continuing competence and practice requirements for registered nurses to provide medications," she added.
Rippin-Sisler noted that, in historical terms, registered nurses have always "responded in a big way to natural disasters or epidemics."
"Historically, they’ve always reacted very broadly and quickly and there are many examples in Manitoba of pop-up clinics at pivotal moments," Rippin-Sisler said, adding that — well into her career as an administrator — she worked for six weeks at clinics dealing with the outbreak of the H1N1 virus in 2009.
To commemorate the landmark anniversary, one retired registered nurse has published a book charting CRNM’s history. St. Boniface resident Sheila Dresen recently released Our Roots, Our Path, Our Evolution: The History of the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba.
Dresen — a PhD and graduate from the St. Boniface General Hospital School of Nursing, who had an accomplished 50-year nursing career in Canada and the U.S. — said she wanted to tell an interesting story about the CRNM.
"It’s not chronological, it’s not written like a diary or a calendar. I thought it would be more intereresting to look at different topics in different chapters," Dresen said.
"I think it’s essential that we record historical events, so we can learn from them and appreciate the enormous contribution people have made to get us here today. If we don’t understand our history, then we’re doomed to repeat our mistakes."
To learn more, visit www.crnm.mb.ca.