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Nursing student closer to living out her dream of helping people thanks to support of new award

Posted by Ryan Donato on June 21, 2024 in Students, School of Nursing, Alumni & Friends
Pamela Dempster (left centre) and family with Sara Foster (right centre)
Pamela Dempster (left centre) and family with Sara Foster (right centre)

Dalhousie School of Nursing student Sara Foster decided to become a nurse because she wanted to help people. Thanks to the support of donors, she is one step closer to living out her dream.

Foster is the inaugural recipient of the Irene Dempster Memorial Award and she was delighted to have a chance to meet and thank the donor family behind the award at the 2024 Nursing Scholarship Reception.

“This award means the world to me, and I cannot express my gratitude to the Dempster family enough. I am honoured to receive recognition for the dedication I have invested into nursing school to reach this point. Speaking to Irene’s family and learning about her story truly inspired me and I aspire to be as wonderful of a nurse as she was.”

Irene Dempster was a dedicated mother, grandmother, educator, and care provider with a deep passion for the field of Nursing. Originally from Northern Ireland, Irene worked in the nursing profession for over 50 years in Nova Scotia.

Irene Dempster

Irene began her nursing career in Nova Scotia as an OB/GYN Nurse at the Grace Maternity Hospital in the early 1970’s. A trailblazer in her field, Irene spearheaded the development of the “rooming-in” standard at the then-new IWK hospital. In the 1990s, Irene was then seconded to the Colchester Regional Hospital in Truro where she assisted with the improvement and development of the Hospital’s OBGYN unit.

In addition to an illustrious career as a nurse, Irene was a passionate Nurse Educator. Throughout the 1970s, Dempster was a long standing instructor at the Victoria General School of Nursing. She later worked as a professor in the Baccalaureate Program at the Dalhousie School of Nursing. After a brief stint in retirement, Dempster continued her career as a nurse educator with the Nova Scotia Palliative Care and Alzheimer’s Programs, and the NS Continuing Care Assistant (CCA) Program respectively. She was also a long standing CPR Instructor for the Red Cross.

When Irene passed in May of 2020, Pamela Dempster, Irene’s daughter and Dal alumni, began searching for a way to honour her mother’s memory and legacy. “I wanted an opportunity to have my mom's name continue within the profession of Nursing because it was an extremely passionate part of her life.” said Dempster. “I thought it was only right to try to keep her name alive within the profession, especially for the younger generations coming up, at least to get an understanding of who she was, and how much she enjoyed the field of nursing.”

After consulting with her family, Pamela approached the School of Nursing and after some initial conversations decided to honour Irene’s memory through the establishment of the Irene Dempster Memorial Award.

Emily Herman, Irene’s granddaughter, is following in her steps as she is currently in the Dal BScN Program. Emily fondly recalls the incredible influence her grandmother had in her life and the decision to pursue a career in nursing.

“She inspired me! Growing up she helped raise me and I was with her all the time. She was very much an educator and when I started getting into healthcare, science, and medicine she would always talk to me about it. It was a natural progression and easy decision to pursue the field of Nursing as my own career.”