A long and distinguished career has been recognized for Tsawwassen’s Sheila Rankin Zerr.
Zerr was recently awarded the UBC Nursing Centenary Medal to mark her contributions to the field of nursing.
“It was certainly an honour and was a nice thank-you for a long career,” she told the Optimist.
She was born and raised in Powell River, graduating from the Royal Jubilee Hospital in Victoria in 1957.
“Growing up in Powell River, I worked as an aid at the hospital during high school. I delivered the supper trays and was associated with the hospital from the time I was 16, so I certainly had exposure to nursing,” she said.
“I would have loved to have gone to university, but that was out of the question because of the financials and the distance, especially for a girl… It was tough, but the hospital training program offered me a chance at post-secondary education. For many of us from my era that was the only thing open for us. I always wanted to teach, and I’m very glad that’s the way things turned out.”
Her career as a staff nurse took her to Vancouver, Fredericton and Ottawa.
After completing graduate studies at the University of Ottawa, she held teaching positions at Ottawa General Hospital, the University of Ottawa, the University of Victoria and the University of British Columbia where she taught her last course in 1994.
Her teaching career covered numerous areas of nursing practice and theory.
At Ottawa General Hospital, she taught pediatric nursing based in the clinical ward. At the University of Ottawa, as a tenured member of the faculty, she taught classroom courses combined with three days a week in the clinical area.
After returning to B.C. in 1985, she accepted a position at the University of Victoria to teach distance education courses on the Knowledge Network.
In 1994 she joined the faculty at UBC to teach computer-based distance education courses. Her research projects and publications include writing and testing the child care program for St. John Ambulance, pharmacology and the nursing process, gathering and publishing stories of nursing in northern Canada, and numerous studies in nursing history.
“I was fortunate that circumstances presented opportunities for me that I could go to university and get my graduate degrees,” she said. “I also learned to love nursing itself and loved teaching. I still have many of my students who are good friends.”