EDITOR’S NOTE: The following, which was submitted by Bill Whalen, was prepared for the Moncton Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae in recognition of Nurses Week in Canada, May 7-13.
SACKVILLE, N.B. – Katherine (Richardson) Wright’s nursing career spanned four decades. While she spent all but one year of her career at The Moncton Hospital, her commitment to patients and her advocacy regarding their right to quality care has been emulated in many health care facilities throughout Canada and beyond.
Wright’s childhood home was in Sackville and in fact, she never left. She continued to live in Sackville, with her husband Harold, throughout the 40 years she worked at The Moncton Hospital. She also enjoyed their cottage in Shediac during the summer.
After graduating from Sackville High in 1944, Wright attended Moncton Hospital Training School for Nurses from which she graduated in1948. She also attended and graduated from McGill University in 1951. Wright earned a diploma in hospital organization and management from the Canadian Hospital Association in 1972.
Wright’s natural leadership skills lead to her promotion from staff nurse to assistant head nurse within one year of her graduation. Three years after graduation, in 1951, she became an instructor at The Moncton Hospital School of Nursing. Two years after that, she was appointed as director of the School of Nursing and held this role until the school closed in 1975. In addition to being director of the School of Nursing, she concurrently served as the hospital’s director of nursing. In 1967, Wright accepted the role of assistant executive
director, which expanded her responsibilities to include many of the hospital’s clinical services, including nursing. She retired in 1988.
Following her retirement, The Moncton Hospital board of directors recognized her contribution by establishing the Katherine Wright Wellness Center. After her death in 1999, her alumnae colleagues created a trust fund which each year sponsors the Katherine Wright Memorial Lecture. The 2018 Lecture will be the 18th in the series. The guest lecturers are always national or global leaders who are recognized as experts in a health-related field or one that impacts the health of individuals and/or communities.
Wright directly influenced health care nationally through involvement in a number of national health associations and committees, such as the board of directors of the Canadian Nurses Association, the Canadian Cancer Society and the Canadian Hospital Association. Wright served as chairperson of the Board of RN Examinations Committee. She also was a surveyor for the Canadian Council on Hospital Accreditation for 14 years.
Provincially, Wright worked diligently to ensure that quality nursing education and practice standards were adopted and maintained. As president of the board of the New Brunswick Association of Registered Nurses (NBARN), she played a vital role in having the responsibility for nursing education moved from the hospital sector to the Department of Advanced Education. She served as the first chairperson of the board of directors of one of these independent nursing schools, The A. J. MacMaster School of Nursing.
Another hallmark of Wright’s NBARN presidency was the Association’s decision to sponsor the establishment of a separate nursing organization with a mandate to focus on the social and financial issues of nurses; this group is now known as the New Brunswick Nurses Union.
Wright readily volunteered her time and energy within the health care community. Several volunteer organizations that contributed to the care of patients and families and funded nurses’ continuing education resulted directly from her efforts. She was a founding member of both The Moncton Hospital School of Nursing Alumnae and The Nurses’ Hospital Auxiliary. Both recognized her leadership by designating her honorary president and life member.
Wright was awarded the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Medal for her contribution to the work of the Saint John Ambulance. She also contributed in other ways to her community by serving as president of the Moncton Unit and the New Brunswick Division of the Canadian Cancer Society; president of the Soroptomist Club of Moncton; and, as board member of the Greater Moncton United Way.
Wright served as professional role model and a surrogate mother for approximately 1,000 nurses who were students of The Moncton Hospital School of Nursing while she served as the school’s director. In addition to sharing her sense of pride in being affiliated with MHSN’s Alumnae, everyone who knew and worked with Wright will remember her professionalism, her integrity and her stubborn insistence that patient care must never be compromised.
Recently, Wright was remembered by those who she mentored as having a quiet strength; a low tolerance for colleagues and student whose attitude and behaviors did not focus patient-centric care and respect of the nursing profession; a commitment to make nurses feel proud of their contribution to quality patient care; and, a natural dignity that she wore like a cloak.
Wright was a leader amongst nursing leaders and played a significant role in shaping the evolution of clinical nursing and nursing education across Canada.