An Intimate look at Nursing


Published on March 16, 2017

Dr. Gordon Thomas and Rosalie Lombard at the Grenfell Mission in the 1950’s

©Submitted

A woman from the United States who spent two years working with the International Grenfell Mission in the early 1950s has released a book detailing her experiences both on and off the job.

Dr. Wilfred Grenfell established health services in Labrador and Northern Newfoundland.

In “Adventures of a Grenfell Nurse” (Flanker Press 2017), Rosalie Lombard tells her readers that from 1952-54 she was in charge of the operating room at the St. Anthony hospital.

Lombard writes how Dr. Gordon Thomas performed a variety of surgical procedures - from tonsillectomies to neurosurgeries. Many of the operations were performed on patients suffering from tuberculosis, she wrote.

“At that point in time, (tuberculosis) incidence in northern Newfoundland and Labrador was of epidemic proportions and the highest in North America,” Lombard wrote of the disease that claimed so many lives.

Lombard’s writing is concrete and descriptive.

We learn how nursing meant much more than working in a hospital.

Lombard takes her readers to the sorrows of the deathbed to the joys of bringing a baby into the world onboard a coastal steamship.

From dog racing to skiing, sliding to hiking, fishing through the ice to fishing off a wharf – Lombard took full advantage of her time off to make memories to last a lifetime.

Lombard lives in Florida. She self-published “Adventures of a Grenfell Nurse” in 2014. The newly released revised edition includes updated information, additional black and white pictures and a new chapter.

When contacted about her decision to sign on with the Grenfell Mission, Lombard said she was 25 years old at the time and was nursing at the Columbia-Presbyterian Medical Center in New York where she’d graduated the previous year (1951).

“I was beginning to yearn for a more adventuresome milieu than New York City. I wanted to use my nursing skills in some organization where there might be challenges that I hadn’t experienced, and where I could make a difference,” she said.

The youngest of five siblings, Lombard said her mother, who was then a widow, wanted her to stay close to home (Keene, New Hampshire) rather than “going off to that place up north where you won’t know anyone.”

Lombard said her years with the Grenfell Mission provided great experience in coping with “bare bones” staffing, and less than “state of the art” medical equipment and procedures.

The isolation of northern Newfoundland, due to lack of roads, ships and air travel (especially in winter), helped her develop self-confidence and an ability to welcome the unknown, she said.

Lombard said her experiences working for the Grenfell Mission broadened her view of the world and tolerance of other cultures.

“Not only was I exposed to the Inuit and Innu cultures, but also worked closely with staff from Canada, Wales, Scotland and England. I especially appreciated and loved the character and traits of the Newfoundland people. All of this, in later years, heightened my interest in traveling more and learning about other cultures.”

Lombard encourages young nurses to seize opportunities to live in or work in other cultures in order to broaden their horizons.

“As the years have rolled by, I have been increasingly aware of the uniqueness of that time.  I have watched, with great interest, the phasing out of the Grenfell Mission, the changes in transportation, the fishing industry, the railway… and I wanted to leave a record of those early days, especially for those who knew the Grenfell Mission, but also for those who have an interest in, and feel a kinship with, Newfoundland as I do.”

Lombard is interested in hearing from people who have a special interest in the Grenfell era. She can be contacted at rmlom57@comcast.net.

danette@nl.rogers.com