skip to main content

Celebrating 75 Years of Innovation in Nursing Education and Research

Learn More | Watch Video

Back to Top

McMaster School of Nursing History Page

Where we began

The School of Nursing at McMaster began when Miss Constance Brewster, Superintendent of Nurses and Director of the School of Nursing at Hamilton General Hospital, 1934-1963, thought that there were opportunities available for academically trained nurses. She contacted Dr. Burke, Dean of Science at McMaster University and suggested that some of McMaster's female graduates might be interested in entering the nursing school after their graduation. 

Hamilton Hall

Above: Hamilton Hall, built in 1930, where the School of Nursing was located, 1946-1974.

“Arts Course and Nurse’s Training” Launched

Consequently, in 1940, three graduates enrolled at the HGH School of Nursing. However, seven years of schooling (four at McMaster and three at HGH) was a long time, and there were few applicants. A Joint Committee was convened to investigate the problem resulting in a combined course for nurses, covering a B.A. and nursing training at the Hamilton General Hospital for a total of five years. The "Arts Course and Nurse's Training" was first offered in the 1941-1942 term. Three women enrolled the first year. However, the programme only lasted 3 years with 8 graduates in total.

School of Nursing Established as Part of Health Sciences Faculty

In 1946-1947, McMaster was ready to try again. Miss Gladys Sharp was hired as the first director She was hired by McMaster University in 1946 to lay down the foundations for a nursing education programme, create a plan, hire staff and faculty, and construct a curriculum. In November 1946, the School of Nursing was accredited by the Nurses Registration Act of Ontario. Sharp created the first curriculum. Having done that, she resigned in May 1949. She said, "I had reached the point where I hadn't the background to do more; I had gone as far as I could; I had done the spade work, which I felt was well and truly done; the basic foundations were sound and it seemed wise to find someone to go on from this point." That someone was Alma Reid, who replaced her as Director in 1948 staying until her retirement in 1970.

In 1974 the School of Nursing became part of the newly-created Faculty of Health Sciences and moved into the McMaster University Medical Centre. The graduates receive a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree upon graduation.

History of graduate program at McMaster

The first graduate courses designed for nursing students at McMaster were part of an interdisciplinary clinical Master’s of Health Sciences (MHSc), which started in 1973. It included the departments of occupational therapy and physiotherapy and the school nursing. The MHSc program was housed within the school of nursing. Applicants didn’t need a bachelor’s degree to get in, and it was a fast-track to a master’s degree. It was recognized as unique in Canada, being clinical-focussed. The program ran until 1994. Each of the practice disciplines decided at that point that they needed a master’s within their own fields. For nursing, the first PhD nursing students were admitted in September 1994 and the first masters of science thesis and course-based students in September 1995. The school also developed two graduate level advanced practice nursing diploma programs. The Advanced Neonatal Nursing Graduate Diploma (ANN) began in 1986 but has not been offered for over 7 years. The Primary Health Care Nurse Practitioner Program (PHCNP), a provincial consortium among 9 university SONs, began as part of a BScN in 1995 and moved to the graduate level in 2003. The PHCNP program is now offered as part of a masters course-based program or as a diploma for students who already have a masters of science. 

Presently, Collaborative Nursing Program Leads to BScN Degree

As of September 2004, Collaborative Programme is the umbrella term. They continue to call themselves the B.Sc.N. Programme with three sites in collaboration. The McMaster, Mohawk, Conestoga Bachelor of Science in Nursing (BScN) program provides a nursing curriculum leading to a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from McMaster University. Students experience clinical placements in the health care and community agencies of Hamilton, Halton, Brantford, Niagara and surrounding areas.

BScN is now the minimum requirement for nursing registration with the College of Nurses of Ontario.

Our Timeline

  • Henrietta Jane Alderson

  • Florence Isabel Greenaway

  • Alma Reid

  • Gladys Sharpe


history book

Source of information above: Archives of McMaster University School of Nursing. The nucleus of the collection was created by Miss Henrietta Alderson as she researched her book on the history of the school, "Twenty-give Years A-Growing".

A new book is underway that will tell the story of the last 70 years of the school.

Records are added regularly to this collection to make it a comprehensive source of information on all aspects of the school.


© 201​​7 McMaster University  |  1280 Main Street West  |  Hamilton, Ontario ​L8S 4K1  |  905-525-​9140905-525-​9140   |  Contact Us | Terms of Use & Privacy Policy