A pioneer in nursing ethics who developed an influential theory of caring, Sister Simone Roach was credited for establishing the first code of ethics for nurses in Canada and inspiring generations of nurses.
In 1980, Sister Simone, who died on July 2 in Antigonish, N.S., at the age of 93, was called upon to oversee the development of a code of ethics for registered nurses in Canada. Having spent nine years building the nursing department at St. Francis Xavier University in Antigonish, as the department's chair, she was considered an influential nursing educator and perfect for the job.
"She is one of those people who is iconic in our profession," said Anne Sutherland Boal, chief executive officer of the Canadian Nurses Association. "She has touched so many of us."
While changes have since been made to the code of ethics, it remains true to what Sister Simone authored more than 35 years ago, Ms. Sutherland Boal said.
Her theory of caring, often referred to as the "6 Cs" of caring, are woven into the code.
"When she spoke, she spoke about being human. She spoke about the responsibility of caring for a patient," said Joanne Whitty-Rogers, interim director and acting chair of St. Francis Xavier's School of Nursing.
"It's not just technology that saves patients," said Dr. Whitty-Rogers, quoting Sister Simone. "It is also the caring you show to patients."
Sister Simone, a member of the Sisters of St. Martha, believed that caring was intrinsic to all people. It is caring, she taught, that is the core and basic foundation for what nurses do every day.
"We care not because we are nurses or radiation technologists, but because we are human beings," she told nursing graduates in 2011 at McMaster University in Hamilton after receiving an honorary doctorate of laws.
"A need to care for others is what called you into the profession, and it's what will sustain you through the joys, conflicts and challenges you will experience."
But what are nurses actually doing when they are caring for a patient,
Sister Simone asked herself. The answer to her question became known as her 6 Cs of caring, which are still taught in nursing schools across the country: compassion, competence, conscience, confidence, commitment and comportment. Dr. Whitty-Rogers said Sister Simone later added a seventh C – creativity.
"She really brought out the humanness in what we do," said Dr. Whitty-Rogers, who remembers once attending a conference outside Nova Scotia where she told someone that she lived in Antigonish; the response was: "You live in the land of caring."
In 2010, Sister Simone became a member of the Order of Canada for her work in nursing education and ethics, and for dedicating her life to improving patient care in Canada.
Eileen Roach was born on July 30, 1922, in New Waterford on Nova Scotia's Cape Breton Island, the daughter of Mary and Simon Roach, who worked for some time as a coal miner. Eileen and her siblings – four sisters and six brothers – were raised in a Catholic household where the parental focus was on the children and hard work.
Eileen studied nursing at St. Joseph's Hospital School of Nursing, not far from home in Glace Bay. At the hospital, she witnessed the Sisters of St. Martha in action and decided to enter the congregation in 1945. When she entered the novitiate she took the name Sister Marie Simone, in honour of her parents; she professed her final vows in 1950.
She graduated with a degree in nursing from St. Francis Xavier, and furthered her studies in administration and clinical supervision at the University of Toronto. She earned a master of science in nursing education at Boston University and, in 1970, received her doctorate in education from Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C. She was then appointed chair of St. Francis Xavier's nursing department and served in that position until 1979.
"She had a very inquiring mind," said Sister Loretta Gillis, her friend and colleague. "She was very philosophical, but she could put things into action."
After spending time as a postdoctoral scholar in ethics at Harvard Divinity School in Massachusetts, Sister Simone was invited to teach ethics to student nurses and staff in the nursing department at St. Boniface General Hospital in Winnipeg.
After four years, she returned to St. John's Hospital in Lowell, Mass., where she had previously worked. She acted as a community leader and liaison between the Congregation of St. Martha's Corporation and the Corporation of St. John's Hospital until 1992. She was then asked to return to Bethany, the Sisters of St. Martha's Motherhouse, in Antigonish.
Over the years, Sister Simone was called upon to give lectures worldwide. At one conference in Helsinki, she became ill and went to hospital. Worried about the paper she was to deliver, she asked Sister Loretta to speak for her if she were still in hospital. Sister Loretta reluctantly agreed.
Shortly before the designated speaking time, Sister Simone walked in, having just left the hospital, and announced she was ready to go. "She was a determined woman," Sister Loretta said.
"She had a job to do and she was going to do it."
Outside her work, Sister Simone loved Scottish music and played the piano to accompany any fiddlers who came to her home or at social gatherings. An engaging storyteller, she could also act the part of the clown. "She could always find the humour in things when people were getting too serious," Sister Loretta said. "She could tell jokes and keep us laughing."
At home, she liked to bake tea biscuits and when they didn't turn out the way she wanted, she blamed the oven.
She was also a seamstress and made many of her own clothes. In Antigonish, she started a centring prayer group. Each week, she would gather with others to simply be quiet and listen to what God was saying.
Her daily prayer time was an essential part of her life.
At the end of her life, Sister Simone suffered from dementia. But until she was nearly 90, she faithfully attended nursing banquets at St. Francis Xavier.
"She was really inspirational," Dr. Whitty-Rogers said. "Her work will live on."