Dr. Betty Davies

Dr. Betty Davies

From a very young age, I wanted to be a nurse — a pediatric nurse, in particular — and I wanted to teach nursing. I feel very fortunate to have had my dream fulfilled with a career that has been meaningful in so many ways.  

While I was a nursing student, traumatic experiences with dying patients inspired me to ensure that my future nursing students would learn about dying and death in supportive ways. Caring for dying children, I pledged to help such children and their families and make their terrible experience a little bit better — or at least, not any worse. Subsequent experiences as a staff nurse, clinical instructor, university professor, and eventually, nurse researcher, reinforced my commitment to caring for families of children with life-limiting illness, helping in bereavement following a child’s death, and enhancing the role of nursing in caring for the dying.  

I believed that my research should be clinically relevant, and so my work has generated three books (a fourth one is in progress), numerous articles, and models of palliative care for children which are now used by hospitals, agencies, and teaching programs in Canada and around the world. My greatest professional pride, however, is co-founding Canuck Place Children’s Hospice in Vancouver, the first standalone children’s hospice in North America.  

My career took me to a variety of positions in several institutions, including my alma mater (the University of Alberta), the Misericordia Hospital and the Cross Cancer Institute in Edmonton, St. Mary’s Hospital in Tucson, and the Universities of British Columbia and of California San Francisco. In 2009, good fortune brought me back to Canada to the newly created position of Senior Scholar at the University of Victoria. In each position, exemplary mentors broadened my perspective; colleagues became life-long friends. It was an absolute joy to move to Victoria and to become colleagues with previous classmates and doctoral students, and to engage with new ones.  

Throughout my career, Florence Nightingale’s maxim offered guidance: “Create comfortable environments where patients are not fearful, and healing will occur.” I followed this advice to ensure that as wherever possible, patients, students, and colleagues felt free to share their thoughts and ideas. Together, with the help of a little chocolate, we got the job done. So far, I have retired twice; while writing my current book, Tom and I have been “practicing” retirement. The plan is that upon its completion, I will retire for the final time. It has been a wonderful journey!