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Mary Bellis

Margaret Mary Bellis’s love of children is rumoured to have begun as the second child of six. Mary’s genuineness, curiosity, friendliness, compassion and loyalty to her family, friends and colleagues are legendary and reminiscent of the attributes of one who was raised in a large family. Her curiosity, sense of adventure, outgoingness and adaptability are likely linked to having a father who was a Wing Commander with the RCAF, as this meant she and her family experienced life in multiple cities across Canada.

Upon her father’s retirement in 1962, the Bellis family relocated to the Vancouver area from Ottawa, finally settling in Burnaby in 1964. Mary’s passion as a caregiver was a large part of what drove her to choose nursing as her profession. Mary went to nursing school at St. Michael’s in Lethbridge, Alberta in 1970.  Her first nursing job was as a pediatric nurse at Royal Inland Hospital in Kamloops in 1973, finally moving back to Burnaby to work at the VGH’s Health Centre for Children in the mid-1970s.

Mary’s dedication to lifelong learning was evident early in her career when she pursued a specialty certification in neurological nursing from Foothill’s Hospital in Calgary, AB. Mary returned to BC and moved from VGH to BC Children’s Hospital (BCCH) Pediatric Intensive Care Unit (PICU) when it opened in 1982, where she worked until her retirement. She was a pioneer in family-centred care before it was labelled as such. Mary recognized the impact an intensive care unit had on children and their families, and she made it her mission to create a warm, child-friendly environment for the children and their families.

Mary role-modelled excellence in her clinical skills, decision making and communication while caring for her patients and their families. Mary demonstrated professionalism each and every day. Her vast clinical knowledge was revered by the entire PICU team. Mary was not only a legend amongst the nurses but the whole team; every resident, respiratory therapist, physiotherapist, physician, etc., knew they had “made it” when Mary approved of them. Many staff remember the day Mary stepped back and said to them “You got this.” It was that moment when you knew you had moved to the next level when Mary, the consummate clinician and teacher, deemed you safe to practice.

Mary was known as a care provider in and out of the unit. She cared fiercely for her colleagues and friends. She had a core group of lifelong friends that she made when she first started in the PICU. Their adventures are legendary. Mary was an inspirational nurse who encouraged and motivated her colleagues daily to reach their potential. She wanted every child to receive the best, and if that was challenging, Mary pushed us to figure out why. Mary made a difference.

Mary passed away unexpectedly on January 30, 2021. Consistently, words such as ‘icon’, ‘mentor’, ‘leader’, ‘teacher’, and ‘role model’ are used to describe her. Mary was a humble, strong, wise, and dedicated professional. She was fierce in her advocacy for her patients and their families. It is this dedication to excellent care that has prompted Mary’s friends and colleagues to partner with the Registered Nurses Foundation of BC (RNFBC) to honour Mary and support nursing students and nurses who have an expressed interest in pediatric, pediatric intensive care or neurological nursing by making contributions that will enable the Children’s and Women’s Hospital Bursary to be sustainable.

Believing that Mary would be honored to have her name attached to an award supporting nursing education, the RNFBC Board approved renaming the bursary to the Bellis and Children’s & Women’s Health Centre Bursary.

Bursaries supported by donor

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