Updated: January 2022

John Robert Burns, RN, RPN

First Director of Nursing 1963
John Robert (Bob) Burns arrived at the Selkirk Mental Hospital in 1960 to become the Nurse Tutor at the hospital’s School of Nursing. Bob completed his general nurse training at the prestigious Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham, UK and his psychiatric nursing at Hollymoor Psychiatric Hospital. He soon became head of the school and was the initiator of the curriculum revision which would be utilised by all the three schools of psychiatric nursing at Brandon, Portage and Selkirk. Bob also ensured that the final examination was the same for all graduates in order to obtain registration as a Psychiatric Nurse. In 1963 Bob was appointed the Director of Nursing services for the hospital. This was a new appointment as previously there was a Chief Male Nurse and a Matron. Bob’s new position consolidated the nursing services under one central control. In 1965, he was proud to be the initiator in preparing the hospital to become the first mental hospital in Canada to receive accreditation. During this time he also studied at the University of Manitoba and obtained his hospital administrator certification. In 1972 Bob took a position as Interlake Regional Director of Health and Social Development. He travelled the Interlake extensively and valued the many kindnesses extended to him by the people of the area. The last position Bob held before retiring, was Chief Program Consultant. Bob was an active member of the Kiwanis in Selkirk and in 1966 he and other members began the process of forming the Selkirk Kiwanis Pipe Band. The band played for the first time at the Canada Centennial parade in 1967. Bob also suggested and organized the Manitoba Highland Gathering where he, many staff members from the Selkirk Mental Hospital, and parents of the pipe band volunteered their help to run the Highland Gathering each year. One year after retirement, Bob took on the new challenge of becoming Director of Skills Manufacturing. He devoted his time and energy to proving that the facility could run profitably while those who had recovered from mental illness could retrain and work in the community successfully. He initiated many changes within the nursing and education services and as a consequence, not everyone was in favour of his “new broom” approach. However, he persevered and laid the foundation for many new developments including the concept of community psychiatric clinics.