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The Augustinian Sisters and Québec City's Hôtel-Dieu

Teaching rounds at the orthopedics unit, ca 1945.

Photo by the medical photography unit of the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec. (Monastère des Augustines de l'Hôtel-Dieu de Québec Archives)

In 2006, the Historic Sites and Monuments Board of Canada (HSMBC) recognized the establishment of Québec City's Hôtel-Dieu by the Augustines de la miséricorde de Jésus (Augustinian Hospital Sisters of the Mercy of Jesus) as an event of national historic importance in the field of health in Canada. In 1639 at Québec City, three Augustinian nuns founded the first hospital in America north of Mexico. The Augustinian Order carries on a long tradition based on the Christian principle of mercy; it is the oldest existing hospitaller community in Canada.

In Québec City for more than 370 years, the Augustinian sisters played a leading role in organizing health care services in Canada. From the time they opened the hospital, they focused as much on healing the body as saving the soul. To relieve distress, the community ran the hospital meticulously and, working closely with doctors and surgeons, integrated medical advances into the care provided. A pioneer in nursing care as well as pharmacology, the community generously shared its knowledge and provided services. Working to improve patient care, the Augustinians helped in the ongoing effort to provide care that met professional standards and from 1855 the Hôtel-Dieu de Québec was affiliated with Université Laval and worked to develop a science-based medical practice. The sisters made the hospital an institution renowned for its care, teaching and research - a tradition that lives on today. They had an influence throughout Quebec and founded other hospitals.

In 1936 the HSMBC recognized the physical location of North America's first permanent hospital as a national historic site. Since 1644, the Hôtel-Dieu has received countless patients at the same location, in the northeast corner of the Old City of Québec. The monastery, among the oldest of such structures in North America, with the many wings and buildings that were constructed to meet the needs of the passing years, today forms one of the most impressive architectural complexes in the city's historic district.