During the Month of May of our 110th year, we continue our Healthcare Heroes through History blog post series with the 1950s. 

The following information about this month’s Healthcare Hero feature was adapted from a special write-up. The author and the purpose of the write-up is unknown, but it captures a wonderful picture of a nurse who was dedicated to her profession and made great contributions as a visiting nurse in the 1950s and beyond!

This Healthcare Hero became a registered nurse in the 1940s, and her first exposure to public health nursing began in 1949 when she assumed the dual role of school nurse and visiting nurse for Farmington. Her name was Barbara Drew. Although doing the job of school nurse and visiting nurse sounds like a tremendous amount of work for one person, Mrs. Drew once shared that it was really like having one job. “Through the children, I got to know the families and thus, was better able to provide continuity of care.”

From 1954 to 1965, Mrs. Drew was out of public health nursing, working instead in nursing homes and as a private duty nurse. This enabled her to spend more time with her family, which had grown to five children. In 1965, Mrs. Drew joined the Farmington Visiting Nurse Association. When Farmington joined the Rural District Health Council in 1973, she stayed on as visiting nurse for that town.  Mrs. Drew’s case load consisted mostly of elderly patients. Most patients were seen on a weekly basis, usually for baths, dressing changes or administration of medications. A large amount of time was spent teaching and supervising family members in the care of the patient. However, some patients required daily visits, especially those recently discharged from the hospital who still required monitoring of their medication or more frequent dressing changes. She saw one of her patients every day for three weeks. In one month alone, Mrs. Drew made 132 visits to residents of Farmington.

When asked if public health nursing had always been her favorite aspect of nursing, Mrs. Drew said “no, but after my first experience with it, I developed a great interest in it. You help keep people functioning. You get involved, not just as a nurse but as a friend.”

When Barbara reflected on her career, she shared, “The primary goal of the visiting nurse now is helping to keep patients at home. When I began in public health, the visiting nurse worked primarily with the indigent. We do a lot more health teaching now and stress the importance of maintaining a good health regime. We work with the family as a unit rather than with just the patient, teaching the family how to care for the patient and offering support and encouragement.”

In looking to the future, Mrs. Drew anticipated a great increase in the need for home health care. With hospitals discharging patients while they are still in need of skilled nursing care, and with the cost of nursing homes being very high, visiting nurses provide a very viable alternative. Mrs. Drew also mentioned that in addition to the cost factor, many patients are more comfortable at home, in familiar surroundings with family and friends nearby. For a terminally ill or elderly patient, this can be more important than anything else.

Barbara enjoyed a long career as a registered nurse and died on June 2, 2004 at the age of 85. In her obituary, she was remembered as being the first Visiting Nurse with the Rural District Health Council of Farmington. We are honored to share Barbara’s contributions as a nurse with the VNA and her legacy of providing important services in her local community.Barbara Drew, Visiting Nurse

Through a series of mergers the Farmington Visiting Nurse Association, the Rural District Health Council, and the Rochester Visiting Nurse Association eventually became today’s Cornerstone VNA.