College of Nursing

Information about the College

History of the College of Nursing

The College of Nursing at the University of Saskatchewan was established as a department in the School of Medical Sciences (later the College of Medicine) in 1938. Ms. Kathleen Ellis, the first director, initially worked half time with the School and half time with the Saskatchewan Registered Nurses' Association (SRNA) as Secretary-Treasurer, Registrar, and Advisor to Schools of Nursing. She was appointed as Professor and Director of Education in the School of Nursing in 1941, serving in this capacity until her retirement in 1950. She received an Honorary Doctor of Laws degree at the University of Saskatchewan on May 14, 1955.

The first curriculum was five years in length with the first two and a half years being in the academic setting for pre-professional education. A committee set up in 1948 to review the curriculum recommended that there be a choice of one of three specialty areas - teaching, supervision and administration, or public heath - for senior students.

First Graduating Class of 1943

First Graduating Class of 1943

Ms. Hazel Keeler became the second Director of the school in 1950 (1950 - 1969) and implemented a revised program still five years in length. During her tenure one year diploma programs were developed to offer additional education for nurses who wished to work in public health or in teaching and supervision. As well, programs were set up for diploma nurses to receive a baccalaureate degree and Advanced Psychiatric Nursing was offered as an additional specialty area. A major revision of the curriculum in 1967 resulted in a four year program of study for the baccalaureate degree.

Professor Lucy Willis was appointed the third Director of the School of Nursing in 1969 (1969 - 1973). It was during her tenure that a specific program for Registered Nurses was developed - the first Post Registration BSN Program. Another accomplishment was the establishment of Continuing Nursing Education with the support of the SRNA. She was the first PhD prepared nurse in the province.

The School of Nursing became the College of Nursing on July 1, 1973. Ms. Hester Kernen was appointed as Acting Dean on July 1, 1973 and as the first Dean on January 1, 1974. The curriculum was revised in 1976 but remained a four year program. She retired in 1980 and Ms. Una Ridley became the second Dean of the College on July 1, 1980 serving until June 30, 1989. It was during this deanship that the Nursing Research Unit (1983 - 1988) was established under the direction of Dr. Norma Stewart.

Professor Yvonne Brown was appointed as Dean effective July 1, 1989 until stepping down in June 30, 2000 to assume a regular faculty position. The 1990 curriculum was introduced during her tenure and preparations begun for degree as entry for professional practice. Meetings with Nursing Division SIAST resulted in the development of the Nursing Education Program of Saskatchewan (NEPS) through a partnership with the University of Saskatchewan and SIAST. September 1996 saw the first cohort of students enter the four year program at the Saskatoon and Regina site. In March 2003, Saskatchewan Indian Federated College (SIFC) [later named First Nations University of Canada] joined the partnership and a third site for the program was established in Prince Albert. A Second Degree Entry Option of the NEPS was introduced with the first cohort of students entering the program in May 2005. This option is offered by SIAST and the College of Nursing at the Saskatoon site only and students are able to complete the option within two calendar years.

Dr. Beth Horsburgh served as Dean from 2000 - 2005 followed by Professor Joan Sawatzky who was Acting Dean for the College from 2005 - 2007. Our current Dean, Dr. Lorna Butler, joined the College on July 1, 2007.

The first Master of Nursing (MN) program was introduced in 1986 although special case students were admitted as early as 1983. An additional option, the Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner, was introduced with the first cohort of students entering in September 2006. The first students to enter the new PhD Program in Nursing entered in September 2007.

Prepared by Professor Mary MacDonald, Assistant Dean Academic Affairs


Brown, Y.M.R., Smith, B.L., & Brown, F.B. (2008). 70 Years of Nursing Education (1938 - 2008) at the University of Saskatchewan. Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan.

Willis, L. (1988). Fifty Years: Just the Beginning. Saskatoon: University of Saskatchewan, College of Nursing.