The Orillia School of Nursing was established in 1910. The aim of the school was ‘to give a thorough and scientific course of instruction and practice to young women interested in the profession of nursing’.
By 1954, there were approximately 14 women from across the province graduating each year from the School of Nursing’s three-year diploma program. Speciality programs such as x-ray technician were also offered.
Up until 1968, the first five months of study at the School of Nursing concentrated on nursing theory and science. Once all examinations were passed, a student was allowed to go on to do three years of clinical experience on the hospital wards, which included surgical, obstetrical, paediatric and mental disease nursing, health education, and medical instruction. Practical work and classroom instruction averaged 48 hours per week, with one full day off. During clinical placement, students received a monthly allowance: $9 for first year students, $10 for second year, and $15 for third year.
In the late 1960s the Ontario government implemented the “2 plus 1” nursing curriculum, requiring two years of intensive academic classroom study and one year of clinical experience as a full-time paid nurse before becoming a registered nurse. At this time, the School of Nursing increased their enrolment to 120 students per year, and built the Eleanor Johnston Residence to house upwards of 80 nursing students. This residence was named in honour of Miss Eleanor Johnston, the hospital’s first nursing leader in 1908.
Throughout its 64-year history, the Orillia School of Nursing enjoyed an excellent reputation and was an integral part of the hospital. By 1974, when the Georgian College Orillia campus nursing program absorbed the School of Nursing, over 700 nurses had graduated and moved into the workforce. Students from Georgian College's nursing program still get their practical experience at OSMH.