When Florence (Egeland) Martin retired from her long nursing career at Surrey Memorial Hospital in 1999, she very literally rode off into the sunset on her horse while a CD player blasted the old country song, Happy Trails.
A friend had picked up the horse along with Florence’s dog from the farm in Cloverdale and secretly brought them down to meet her as she left the hospital after her last shift. It was a memorable salute for a woman who dedicated more than 30 years to nursing, most of it caring for sick kids and their parents in the children’s ward.
Since Florence’s death, pediatric nurses have benefited from the Florence Martin Excellence in Nursing Bursary, a fitting legacy for a single mother who worked as a licensed practical nurse before studying to become a registered nurse in her late 40s, graduating just before her 50th birthday.
Florence was supporting four children on her own, and at times she had two jobs. Growing up, daughter Deanna Egeland remembers her mom heading off to work in her uniform—a white dress, stockings and shoes, plus a starched cap with a green cross. An elderly neighbour would care for Deanna and her three siblings when Florence was on late or night shifts.
“Mom was very well-liked and worked well with the team,” Deanna recalls. “It was her passion and it was what she loved, and she was good at it.”
On the pediatric ward, Florence was sometimes called the baby whisperer because of her ability to soothe even the fussiest of babies.
Thanks to the family’s generosity, Florence left a valuable legacy for today’s pediatric nurses. This year, the bursary program will conclude with five nurses receiving bursaries in Florence’s honour.
One of them is Shannon Brink who works in the children’s emergency department. Like Florence, Shannon also juggles caring for her family with a passion for nursing. She will be using the bursary to take the UBC Tropical Medicine Course prior to a family volunteer trip to Malawi.
“As a busy mom of four, it can be challenging to continue pursuing your dreams while working as a bedside nurse,” Shannon says. “I have been planning and hoping to add to my practice a knowledge of tropical medicine for many years but have been unable to afford to take more training, and unable to carve it out of our busy family schedule. I am very thankful for the Florence Martin award as it gives me the opportunity to pursue a dream I have long had, and we have had as a family, to care for some of the most impoverished, and health-care-poor regions in the world.”
The tropical nursing expertise will also be valuable for Shannon’s work in Surrey, where families from all over the world now settle with their children.