The Association of Registered Nurses of BC

Helen Mussallem celebrating her
90th birthday in BC, January 2005
Funeral will be in Ottawa at the Central Chapel of Hulse, Playfair and McGarry, 315 McLeod Street, on Friday November 16th, 2012 at 1 pm.

There is also likely to be a gathering in Vancouver, likely closer to her birthday (January 7th).

In lieu of flowers, they are asking for memorial contributions to the Canadian Nurses Foundation.
Dr. Helen K. Mussallem, 1914-2012

The Association of Registered Nurses of BC is saddened to learn of the death of Dr. Helen K. Mussallem on November 9, 2012 in Ottawa.

Born in Prince Rupert, British Columbia, into a family of Lebanese heritage, Dr. Mussallem began her nursing career at Vancouver General Hospital (VGH), receiving her diploma in 1937, where she remained working in the operating room. During World War II she enlisted in the Royal Canadian Army Medical Corps, serving between 1943 and 1946 as a surgical nurse and lieutenant. Upon her return, she obtained a bachelor's degree in nursing from McGill University in 1947. She then joined the teaching staff at VGH School of Nursing, obtained the degree of Master of Arts in Education from Columbia University in New York, and served as director of nursing education at VGH. She was the first known Canadian nurse to obtain a PhD degree from Columbia Teachers College in 1962. She then served as executive director of the Canadian Nurses Association (CNA) from 1963 to 1981.

Upon the request of the Canadian Nurses Association, she completed an influential survey on nursing education in the 1950s (Spotlight on Nursing Education [1960]) and wrote a report for the Royal Commission on Health Services in the early 1960s (Nursing education in Canada [1964]). The point was not only to find "more," but to create "more and better qualified" nurses, according to Mussallem, and hence her strong advocacy for more baccalaureate and, eventually, more graduate nursing education. Frequently called upon for advice by the federal government, national and international organizations, including the ICN and the WHO, she completed numerous consultations around the world, especially within developing countries, influencing worldwide policy on nursing and nursing education. She received wide recognition for her contributions and holds many honours, such as Companion of the Order of Canada, Honorary Doctorates at UBC and four other universities and being the first non-governmental representative on a Canadian Government delegation at the World Health Assembly (1977). Symbolic of her determination to create the best possible education for nurses, she was a strong supporter of the UBC School of Nursing. The School was fortunate to be able to establish a fund in her name, supporting nursing students to attend international conferences and participate in exchanges. Her legacy has helped ensure that the next generation of nurses follows her example of national and international networking and nursing scholarship.

During her later years, Dr. Mussallem maintained residences in both Ottawa and Vancouver. She retained close connections with the UBC School of Nursing, last visiting the School in 2005, shortly after her 90th birthday. She set up an endowment fund at the School to support students in international endeavours, and maintained a lively interest in the issues of the day. She was particularly concerned about the future of the professional voice for nursing in BC after the organizational transitions of 2005, and was a strong cheerleader for the development of the RN Network that was the precursor to the current ARNBC. Giving up on email during her later years, she was delighted to regularly receive the RN Network Updates in hard copy by mail, and although she was unable to attend meetings in person, always considered herself a supporting member.

BC nurses will remember this remarkable Canadian nursing leader whose career began in our province. During a long and productive life in the service of the public, she exemplified a professional nursing voice to the nation and the world.

Photograph and information provided by the University of British Columbia School of Nursing.