Nurses During WWI

What caused WWI? What was Canada’s involvement? What was the involvement of the Canadian Army Medical Corps (CAMC)? What role did nurses play? What opportunities did women have at that time? These questions will be addressed in this activity.

Part 1: Brainstorm

Optional: start with a brainstorming activity. Students can answer the questions in pairs, or small groups, and then share their answers with the whole class.

Questions to consider in the brainstorm:

  • What do you know about WWI?
  • Would you have signed up to fight or as a nurse?
  • What do you know about nursing?
  • Do you know any nurses?
  • What have your experiences with nurses been?
  • What do you think was the job of a nurse during WWI?

The teacher can also introduce the activity (briefly) by explaining how the enormous amount of casualties and deaths in WWI led to the critical involvement of the Canadian Medical Corps nurses and how this impacted the role of women at the time.

Part two: Virtual exhibitions

After the class brainstorming session, we suggest showing students the “War Breaks Out” section of the virtual exhibition Canada and the First World War, 1914-1919, which discusses the causes of the First World War, the involvement of Canadians, and the large number of casualties. We then suggest presenting the virtual exhibition They Cared: Origins of  Military Nursing.

While visiting the virtual exhibits, students will answer the questions in the handout provided (student guide). At the end of the exercise, students will answer a reflection question. The questions and reflection can be collected for grading purposes. A marking rubric is included (refer to the student guide).

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Replica Uniforms

Get the chance to interact with our replica uniforms from the Great War. We lend both the soldier’s and the nurse’s uniform so that students can picture how people dressed during wartime. The uniforms offer a small insight into the daily lives of the ordinary people who participated in this unprecedented event.

Kinmel Park Riots

One topic that is rarely broached in discussions of the First World War is the challenges that Canada faced when bringing the troops home. Students will read and analyze an article on the riots that took place in Kinmel Park.

Exhibition- They Cared: Origins of Military Nursing

The exhibition, comprised of 6 panels, traces the birth of military nursing. It presents the journey of several military nurses during the First World War and the continued contributions of the nursing profession to society.