Yes, Sister

Memoir of a Young Nurse

“Nursing is hands-on, caring for the patient twenty-four hours a day. The nurse is the patient’s protector, confidant, advisor and teacher. The nurse is a keen observer, able to examine, calculate, appraise and evaluate any medical situation and respond to minute changes in patients’ condition. The nurse brings a comforting closeness to the patient that comes through time spent at the bedside.

“The nurse is the eyes of the doctor.”

– Donna Yates-Adelman

You can also buy Yes, Sister at the following bookstores:
  • Chapters/Indigo, Montreal
  • McNally Robinson

Nineteen-year-old Donna Yates is ripe with idealism and dreams when she enters a grueling three-year training program under the supervision of the indomitable Sister Leclerc at Holy Cross Hospital, School of Nursing.

But her dreams are soon challenged as she comes up against the shocking realities of resident and hospital life. When physical and emotional strain of her first encounters with illness and death threaten to overwhelm her, Yates discovers undreamed of reserves of strength.

Her newly emerging strength gets an added workout when rioting mental patients threaten to turn a picnic into an orgy, and she discovers a fine line separates sanity from madness and comedy from tragedy.

Under strict rules and exacting standards of the French-speaking Grey Nuns, Yates learns the true meaning of “vocation.” Holy Cross did more than turn out good nurses…it changed the lives of the women who trained there.

Diet Kitchen; Kaufmann and Porter

Yes, Sister, is an intensely personal memoir with the pace and texture of a novel. Set against the sprawling beauty of western Canada, this coming of age story has a distinct subtext that cuts across gender, religion and politics.

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Book Reviews

  • “[Yes, Sister] is a remarkably detailed, historically important account of the stringent schooling nurses once had to go through to practice their noble profession… Yates writes as if it all happened yesterday, with a clarity that brings the reader right into the hospital corridors. A must read!”

    Marlene Eisner
    The Suburban
  • “Anyone who knows nursing as it is taught today, in educational settings. should read how it used to be done. […] Yates-Adelman has an interesting story to tell­ and she tells it in a polished way that draws us right into the world of the student nurses for three fascinating years.”

    Margaret Goldik
    Montreal Review of Books
  • “Yes, Sister tells the story about the friendships forged among the student nurses, in addition to chronicling the gruelling, gory, sad, touching and sometimes humorous events within the walls of “The Holy” — which closed in 1996 — and other hospitals in Alberta where the women trained.”

    Sandee Wong
    Calgary Herald

Holy Cross School of Nursing Scrapbook, 1959-1962

Symbol of a Profession: One Hundred Years of Nurses’ Cap


Upon completing her training probation period lasting approximately three months, the student nurse, or “probie” participated in a “capping” ceremony, where she received her first cap. At the Hamilton and District Regional nSchool of Nursing, for example, probies were given a cap with a white band (1999.267.35). The ceremony promoted school loyalty and pride and inspired students to persevere through the rigours of training ahead. Part of the ritual was a vow.

See The Gloria (Barwell) Kay Nurses’ Caps Collection

Florence Nightingale’s greatest achievement was to raise nursing to the level of a respectable profession for women. In 1860, with the public subscriptions of the Nightingale Fund, she established the Nightingale Training School for nurses at St Thomas’ Hospital, London.

Cape. St. Boniface Hospital School of Nursing, Manitoba, 1947.
Canadian Nurses Association Collection

The nurse’s blue cape with red lining is an enduring legacy of the Florence Nightingale era. In 1844, the Grey Nuns of Montreal sent four missionaries to start a hospital in the Red River colony of St. Boniface, near Winnipeg, Manitoba.

CMC 2000.111.381

School Pin. University of British Columbia School of Nursing, Vancouver, 1968.
Canadian Nurses Association Collection

The University of British Columbia was the first to offer a university programme for nurses, starting in 1918.

CMC 2000.111.175

Speaking topics


Donna welcomes the opportunity to talk to nurses, patients and caregivers worldwide.

  • Tips To Surviving In The Health Care System: For Patients, Caregivers, Family and Friends
  • The Nurse: An Endangered Species
  • Compassion and the Hi-Tech Nurse – Is There Room for Both?
  • Nursing Matters: Then and Now
  • Why Be a Nurse?

Book Events

  • May 14, 2008

    Capital Health Regional Nurses' Week

    Donna Yates-Adelman – Back to the Future with Florence Nightingale: The Nurse Gene

  • Dec 2007

    Johnson and Johnson's Nurses Who Make a Difference Program


Get in touch

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