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Nursing family shares tradition with the future

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Sarah and Stephanie Painter stood next to their mother Vivian as she told their story to the College of Registered Nurses of Manitoba and contributed to a time capsule on April 30.

"I think in preparing for this event it was important to have regular registered nurses take part," said Vivian. "Being a family of nurses we were asked to participate, and what a great privilege it is."

Their story is special because Vivian, Sarah, and Stephanie are all registered nurses working in Winnipeg. Sarah’s an RN in the emergency department at St. Boniface General Hospital, and Stephanie’s an RN at the Health Sciences Centre in the Adult Oncology Blood and Marrow Transplant Unit.

Technically, Vivian is retired, but she says she doesn’t see it that way. To her, she just has a different opportunity to learn in the nursing profession.  

 "In a centennial year, you’re looking back, and it’s a time about looking forward," said Sarah of their involvement with the time capsule. "So it was important for us to be here because we all have the same job and I think we all generally ended up in the same profession in our own ways. I think it kind of represents the past and present of nursing in a lot of ways."

The college decided to create a time capsule because 2013 marks 100 years since the college’s founding. Manitoba is only the second province to achieve the milestone, after Saskatchewan.

"It really underscores how forward-thinking individuals were organizing nursing practices in Canada," said Cathy Rippin-Sisler, RN and president of the college.  "We’re really proud of the college because having standards and guidelines and expectations for nurses when they are educated, when they registered and when they practise allows us to give assurance to the public that when you encounter a nurse, you can be assured they have been educated and they practise with standards."

Steph and Sarah admitted that growing up they thought, rebelliously, of not following in their mother’s footsteps. It was their father Garry’s diagnosis, battle, and eventual death from terminal stomach cancer that convinced the girls nursing was the profession they wanted to pursue.

In the time capsule, Sarah placed a copy of the speech she planned on giving to the Canadian Nurses Foundation in Ottawa on May 1. In it, she describes the nurses surrounding her father in his time of need and how it convinced her nursing was her path.

"As I observed her throughout our time, I marvelled at the intricate skill of her hands and the incredible knowledge that animated her every move," wrote Sarah. "But what I was most taken by was her presence with us as human beings."

As well as watching the nurses with her father, Stephanie contributes her desire to be a nurse, a desire borne of all the stories she heard from her mother growing up.

"We just grew up hearing such amazing stories from our mom," said Stephanie. "Everything she got to experience and the wide variety of different things you can do in the nursing profession. I think that always sparked something in me."

In addition to Sarah’s speech, Vivian gave a pair of "stylish" nursing shoes from the early ‘90s, a scrub dress, and a copy of her thesis about the nurse-patient relationship.  

Students from local post-secondary nursing programs were also at the event. They contributed their nursing handbooks and pins to the capsule. Rippin-Sisler said it was really important for the programs to be represented in the time capsule.

"I really see looking into the future as part of our responsibility as we reflect on the past," said Rippin-Sisler. "And I see them as the future."

The college plans on opening the capsule in 30 to 40 years.

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