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Dates of existence
The British Columbia School of Psychiatric Nursing was established at East Lawn, Riverview Hospital (then the Female Chronic Unit and Essondale Hospital, respectively) in 1930. It was the first training school of its kind in B.C. When the unit opened in 1930, there was an immediate need for trained psychiatric nurses. Firstly, a six-month post-graduate course was offered to train registered nurses quickly, whereupon they became supervisors for new nurses enrolled in the course. In 1931, a nursing instructor, Miss C. A. Hicks, was appointed and the School expanded from a single course to a two-year psychiatric nursing program. The first graduates from the School received their diploma in 1932. That year, the program was extended to a three-year term which continued until 1951 when it again became a two-year program.
Because of the historical gendered beliefs held by the medical profession at the time, psychiatric nurses and students were female. With roots in Victorian viewpoints on gender, women were considered to be best equipped for nursing because they were considered to possess a moral capacity and natural compassion suited to patient care. Men were initially only considered mental hospital attendants. However in 1937 the School opened its enrollment to male psychiatric nurses.
Prior to 1951, psychiatric nursing was not a regulated profession in British Columbia and students enrolled in the program were employed as civil servants. With the establishment of the Psychiatric Nurses Act (1951) graduates were bound by standards of practice and education and were not considered civil servants until the successful completion of the program.
Riverview Hospital remained the home of the School of Psychiatric Nursing until 1972. But due to a decline in patient population, the School moved to the British Columbia Institute of Technology in and was renamed the Psychiatric Nursing program. The last class from the Riverview Hospital program graduated in 1973.
Due to Provincial budget cuts in 1984, the Psychiatric Nursing program was reduced to a one-year program and moved to Douglas College, where it remains today.