Helen Allison

Scottish highlander by birth, Canadian by home, Helen was born with healing hands and a caregiving heart.


As a child in World War II, Helen barely survived the deadly bombings of the Clydebank Blitz. After witnessing so much suffering and destruction, Helen chose to dedicate her life to nursing. She studied at Scotland's Dunbarton Joint Hospital, specializing in infectious disease during the deadly waves of tubercular meningitis, diphtheria, and whooping cough. Later she nursed at Scotland's Paisley Royal Alexander Infirmary.  


After immigrating to Canada, Helen was invited to join Canada's pioneering centre in the care of the terminally ill as co-ordinator / head nurse at Canada's first palliative care unit, St. Boniface Hospital, in Winnipeg. Throughout decades of dedication to caregiving, Helen nursed at other palliative care units in major Canadian cities. She went on to combine her mastery of nursing with medical social work, expanding her healing work to include help for abused youth at the Children's Hospital. 


From the early days of palliative care in Canada, and throughout her long career as a nurse and medical social worker, Helen always advocated for patients, first and foremost. She deeply believed in the power of a person-centered approach to patient and family care. 


Helen was senior author of Social Work Services as a Component of Palliative Care with Terminal Cancer Patients (Haworth Press).


Despite retirement, Helen remained dedicated to the plight of those suffering serious, chronic illness and was invited to join a specialized pain clinic to help patients experiencing unremitting pain.


Shortly before her death, Helen published another book, written collaboratively with her daughter, Irene. Stay, Breath with Me: The Gift of Compassionate Wisdom, shares her life’s learning that to ease pain and alleviate suffering, the Art of Care must embody the wisdom of the patient.