Nursing in Guyana like most other countries has faced many problems and, it's because of this that the nurses in British Guiana saw it fit to form an association which they hoped would assist them in overcoming some of the immediate difficulties encountered.
Dr. J. B. Singh, OBE, who was one of the leading medical practitioners in the colony of British Guiana and considered the father of the medical profession was approached by a few nurses for guidance and advice. He thought it was a wonderful idea and gave it his blessing. He even went further by making his home a meeting place.
In June 1928, the organization was formally launched as the British Guiana Nurses Association. Because of the enthusiasm shown by the nurses, the membership grew rapidly, hence they had to seek accommodation at the St. Andrew's Church of Scotland School Room, which was a large building. The sum of twenty-four cents was charged as membership fee at that time.
The main objectives were chiefly:
To raise the standard of nursing care in the hospitals
To ensure that nurses who practiced were duly qualified persons
In August 1930, the Association was registered under the Friendly Societies Ordinance.
The membership at the time consisted of certified nurses, certified midwives and health visitors. There was a committee of management comprising a President, Vice President, Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Treasurer and three ordinary members.
Acquisition of Building
As meetings continued to be held at various locations including the recreation hall of the Public Hospital, Georgetown or any other hall available, the executive felt that a hall was urgently required to encourage and improve educational and social activities There was also a need to provide rooms for indigent nurses as well as accommodation for country or overseas nurses.
With that objective, a building fund was started on the advice of the then Inspector General of Police.
Through hard work in the form of fund-raising activities the present site with old St. Leonard's School building situated at Charlotte and Alexander Streets, Lacytown, was purchased at the end of 1937. Activities were held to raise funds for repairs and reconstruction.
However, the sum raised was inadequate. Through the kind interest of Mr. W. S. Jones, Managing Director Booker Bros. and other directors of the firm, the reconstruction was done. There was an official opening on May 31, 1940.
After Guyana achieved Independence status in 1966, the name of the organization was changed to the Guyana Nurses Association (GNA) - a non-governmental, not-for-profit organization.
The Florence Nightingale Home
Early 1970, a lower flat was inserted and a home for indigent nurses was established. It was named 'The Florence Nightingale Home' and was the brainchild of Miriam Eldecca Clarke, a former President. It was through her diligent work and leadership that it became a reality.
The Home was formally opened by Dr. Sylvia Talbot, then Minister of health, and blessed by Sir Allan John Knight, Bishop of Guyana on August 2, 1970. Six nurses who were domiciled at the "Palms" and other charity homes took up residence on September 1, 1970.
Unfortunately, this service was discontinued in the 1980's due to the difficulty in retaining staff (caretaker and maids), to provide the necessary care for the inmates of the Home. The rooms were then rented to students from outlying regions who were pursuing nursing programmes at the Georgetown School of Nursing.