100 Years of Caring
From its earliest origins...
The Brockton Visiting Nurse Association has developed a full array of services that promote health, prevent institutional care, and allow families and patients to remain at home with dignity as long as possible.
On a windswept winter morning nearly one hundred years ago, Nurse Lillian Spellman began her service as Brockton's first visiting nurse with her standard equipment: a black nursing bag, trolley fare, and indomitable spirit.
Under the auspices of the newly founded Brockton Visting Nurse Association, Nurse Spellman made 942 visits the first year. At a time when the average wage in the United States was 22 cents an hour, individuals with means were charged fifty cents for her visits, but more than half of her visits were made without charge. The first year set a tone of excellence in one-on-one home health care that continues to resonate a century later.
November 23, 1910
The Brockton Visting Nurse Association was incorporated for the purpose of "aiding the sick to obtain proper home nursing, and of lending assistance to, or engaging in, such projects as may tend to benefit the public health."
An automobile was rented to visit patients in outlying sections and areas, but most nurses used the trolley.
The first few months of 1920
Severe snowstorms have often posed travel problems during the winter months but rarely have kept nurses from their patients.
However, a heavy load of nursing calls from an influenza epidemic compounded with severe snowstorms stretched thin the available transportation, and horse-drawn sleighs were pressed into service.
During this epidemic, one heavy winter storm closed the side streets to traffic, but the nurse was obliged to walk through deep snow from the main street.
1920 - 1926
During the 1920s, the nurses rented an automobile two days a week to visit patients in outlying areas of Brockton and were rewarded with a generous gift in 1926.
The automobile committee of that year reported, "We had a splendid and unexpected gift of an Oldsmobile closed car. It is easier to drive, and it doesn't skid as easily as the Ford touring car."
Board members and the Red Cross also took nurses into their districts in the morning.
Records show that during this time, two nurses were paid $18 a month for the use of their own cars, but most nurses used the city bus system.
During this time, nurses were paid eight cents a mile for traveling 1,448 miles through the city.
Staff members first traveled to towns surrounding Brockton, and today, staff makes visits through southeastern Massachusetts.
The first office was located at the Tuberculosis League at 31 Centre Street, with subsequent headquarters located at 33 Cottage Street, the Olympia Building at 196 Main Street, and Barristers Hall at 221 Main Street.
In 1963, a new home at 300 Battles Street became a reality through a program of donor-supported expansion, and this remained VNA headquarters for more than 25 years until the space was outgrown and the VNA found a new home at 1280 Belmont Street.
The introduction of Medicare and Medicaid legislation in 1966 provided health insurance for the elderly and for the indigent, bringing home health care into the mainstream of the health care system.
Socially conscious women of Brockton in the early nineteen hundreds were a major force in establishing and maintaining the Brockton VNA.
Monthly board meetings were held on Tuesdays, a tradition still maintained one hundred years later.
Although men served as medical and business advisors in the early years, they did not become members of the finance committee until 1967 under president Mary Gibson.
Men were able to join the board when Priscilla Mueller was president.
Blizzard of 1978
Considered the most severe snowstorm in the history of the region, one nurse made house calls on a snowmobile.
Finally, the Brockton VNA headquarters relocated to the historic Brockton Fairgrounds at 500 Belmont Street where today it remains and also houses other local businesses and community agencies.
One massive winter storm stranded staff and patients alike, but the visiting nurse staff, reported in The Sunday Enterprise, went above and beyond to "brave the storm for patients."
Nurses who could not get into the office called in with directions regarding which of their patients would have to be seen and what they needed. Volunteer drivers in four-wheel-drive vehicles took nurses, therapists, and home health aides, through the snow and treacherous streets to shut-in patients.
One volunteer drove visiting nurse Marcia Britton to the home of a cardiac patient where the street was blocked and she had to walk through thigh-deep snow to reach the house. Inside, she found that the patient had just returned from a nursing home and had no food. She cared for the patient and then went out and bought him groceries.
A four-wheel-drive vehicle is nearly essential for nurses, therapists, and home health aides as they travel through southeastern Massachusetts in all kinds of weather to visit people in their homes.
The Brockton VNA is a Medicare-certified, private, nonprofit organization and is one of the largest freestanding visiting nurse associations in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
Governed by a voluntary board of community leaders, the Brockton VNA now employs 160 staff members providing home health services to clients throughout southeastern Massachusetts.
The Brockton Visiting Nurse Association remains with a committed Board of Directors whose stewardship and oversight are steadfast. The staff of providers and support workers allows the Brocton VNA to carry out its mission to this day - "BVNA Home Health and Hospice provides compassionate, high-quality care to our patients and their families"