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VNAA - Visiting Nurse Associations of America

History of the Visiting Nurse Associations of America


An Organization is Born

The VNAA was established in 1983, yet the history of visiting nurse agencies dates back to the 1880s in New York, where free nursing care was provided to the sickest and poorest who otherwise would not have access to healthcare. The influx of immigrants to the Northeast spurred several VNAs to emerge to address the increased prevalence of illness and infectious diseases, such as polio and small pox. Lillian Wald, the pioneer of public health nursing, advanced the principle that "Society benefits when healthcare is provided in the least costly and most comforting setting-most often the home."

Lillian D. Wald - Founder of the Visiting Nurse Profession
VNAALillian Wald was a nurse, social worker, public health official, teacher, author, editor, publisher, women's rights activist, and the founder of American community nursing. Her unselfish devotion to humanity is recognized around the world and her visionary programs have been widely copied everywhere. Wald was born into a German-Jewish middle-class family in Cincinnati, Ohio. In 1878, she moved with her family to Rochester, N.Y., were she attended Miss Cruttenden's English-French Boarding and Day School for Young Ladies. Upon graduation, she tried to enter Vassar but was denied, as the school thought her too young, at 16. Several years later, however, she went on to attend New York Hospital's School of Nursing.

In 1893, after a trying time at an orphanage where children were maltreated, she started to teach a home class on nursing for Lower East Side (New York) women. Not long thereafter, she began to care for sick residents of the Lower East Side, and soon decided to devote her life to this cause. Along with another nurse, Mary Brewster, she moved into a spartan room near her patients, in order to care for them better. She was the founder of the Henry Street Settlement, which later attracted the attention of Jacob Schiff, a prominent Jewish philanthropist who secretly provided her the means to help more effectively the "poor Russian Jews" whose care she made her life's mission. She was able to expand her work later, having 27 nurses helping her by 1906.

She never married, preferring to devote herself fully to her career. She authored two books relating to this work, the first being The House on Henry Street, first published in 1911, followed by Windows on Henry Street in 1934. Today, Lillian Wald is widely regarded as the founder of visiting nursing in the U.S. and Canada.

She died in 1940 of a cerebral hemorrhage. Many people mourned the loss of the dedicated nurse and immigrant reformer. The Lillian Wald Houses on Avenue D (Manhattan) were named for her. Information taken from Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lillian_Wald.

Today's VNAA

VNAAFounded in Colorado, VNAA moved to Boston more than 10 years ago and moved to Washington, DC, in 2007 to be close to the legislative action. The VNAA has established itself as the official national association for community-based nonprofit Visiting Nurse Agencies and home healthcare and hospice agencies, who care for and treat approximately four million patients each year. The nation's network of Visiting Nurse Associations share a nonprofit mission to provide cost-effective and compassionate home healthcare to some of the nation's most vulnerable individuals, particularly the elderly and individuals with disabilities. The VNAA offers a wide range of resources about home healthcare and hospice and questions to ask when considering them both.

Read more about the VNAA's history in Inside Healthcare's, "Health Solution Spotlights: Visiting Nurse Associations of America: Many Voices One Cause" article, published May 1, 2009.



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