Celebrating 100 Years

May 2016

For 100 years, the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Cape Cod has played a vital role in caring for people on Cape Cod. People throughout the Cape know the VNA of Cape Cod has been an integral part of the healthcare landscape here for decades. They know it is a critical component of a comprehensive healthcare system. They know its original mission—to provide healthcare and hospice at home —remains a cornerstone of VNA service and an essential element of the Cape Cod Healthcare continuum of services.

Today, the VNA of Cape Cod offers much more than healthcare at home. It’s a comprehensive healthcare provider offering an ever-expanding range of advanced level healthcare services.

Deep Roots on Cape Cod

The VNA is one of the oldest non-profits on the Cape and was established in various areas throughout Cape Cod in the early 1900’s. Even before the hospitals arrived, the VNA in Falmouth consisted of a single nurse on a bicycle, delivering babies and caring for the sick in their own homes.

The “VNA of Cape Cod” was created in 1998 with the merger of three separate Cape-based VNA organizations, a merger that helped the organization streamline costs while maintaining quality. Later in 1998, the VNA of Cape Cod became a partner within Cape Cod Healthcare. Along with Cape Cod Hospital and Falmouth Hospital, it now forms the third primary component of our healthcare system. With a workforce of nearly 800 employees and over 140 volunteers, the VNA of Cape Cod provides more than 300,000 annual home health care visits, watching over nearly 3,000 patients at any given time.

Today, most patients are released from the hospital much sooner and require more acute and immediate care. Shortened hospital stays created the need for nursing specialists. With growing pressures from medical insurers to discharge patients as quickly as possible, the two hospitals are relying more than ever on the VNA of Cape Cod’s nurses, home health aides, and therapists to keep patients safe and healthy in their homes.

Direct patient care in the home includes services such as wound and ostomy care, IV therapy and rehabilitation, as well as hospice and palliative care. In addition, the VNA educates and instructs patients and caregivers about medications, special diets, and self-care. Specialized programs are offered in areas such as diabetes management, cardiopulmonary care, pediatrics, mother/child health, adult day health, childcare, and Alzheimer’s.

The VNA provides numerous community services to the residents of Cape Cod including cancer
screenings, immunizations, and programs that not only help people deal with illness, but prevent it in the first place. The VNA’s Private Services program is growing rapidly as more retirees choose Cape Cod. This program offers personalized care on a private pay basis, after insurance benefits have expired. This helps enable people to remain in the home, despite health challenges.

In The Beginning…

In 1916, the Woods Hole Woman’s Club considered creating a “public” nursing service for the community. With the encouragement of Emma Wilson of the Red Cross, the VNA was created at a Falmouth town meeting. The first VNA nurse was Elizabeth A. Eliot-Smith, an English woman who rode a bicycle to make patient visits. She provided care including bedside nursing, prenatal and infant welfare, care for tubercular patients, and school programs. Over time, Elizabeth needed more than a bicycle to make her rounds, and a used Model T was purchased.

Continued Growth

In 1917, nurses including Mary Evelyn Kelley, Charlotte Holden, and Sarah E. Fisher—who served as VNA president from 1917 to 1922—joined the association. The association found a four-room bungalow on Main Street for a meeting place, a residence for the nurses, and a place for visiting physicians to perform procedures. In 1980, the association was renamed the Visiting Nurse Association. In the late ‘90s, two additional organizations—the Chatham-Orleans VNA and the VNA of Central and Outer Cape Cod, joined the VNA of Upper Cape Cod—to form the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Cape Cod, a partner within Cape Cod Healthcare.

A Long Legacy of Care

The Barnstable, Yarmouth, and Dennis District Nursing Association began in1918 and taught
hygiene and sanitation, as well as providing skilled, in-home nursing care. The first registered nurse in the organization, Edith Soule, joined in 1920. She was responsible for establishing tuberculosis and dental clinics, in addition to well-baby visits. President James Otis of Hyannisport led the association, and, in 1928, it became a corporation.

By 1946, nurses would charge $1 for each patient visit. The services continued to expand over the years to include the towns of Brewster and Harwich, and in 1967, the staff had grown to include 10 nurses, one physical therapist, and one occupational therapist. Several subsequent mergers took place to form the VNA of Cape Cod that we know today. In 1987, the
Wellfleet Home Health Agency merged with the Central Cape VNA to become the VNA of Central and Outer Cape Cod. In 1998, the VNA of Central and Outer Cape, Chatham-Orleans VNA and the VNA of Upper Cape merged to form the VNA of Cape Cod.

The name isn’t the only thing that has changed about the Visiting Nurse Association (VNA) of Cape Cod over the years. From increased staff to additional services offered, the organization has
grown. Now covering more than 1,200 square miles, caring for patients from Provincetown to Plymouth and beyond, including Martha’s Vineyard and Nantucket, the staff are available 24 hours a day, seven days a week to provide care.

A Constant Focus

Whether providing care to a newborn or a 102-year-old patient, a patient-centered focus has remained the philosophy of the VNA of Cape Cod through its 100-year history.

“Certainly going into a patient’s home to help them achieve wellness is the greatest reward you have as a professional,” says Dianne Kolb, CEO. “Many patients think of us as angels coming to their homes to help them gain independence. We take pride in that.”