The Early 1900s
In 1919, with financial support from the Schenectady Women’s Club and the City Federation of Women’s Organizations, Miss McGee organized the Public Health Nursing Service, a countywide service available to all persons with public health needs, regardless of race, creed, or ability to pay. Room 305 of the County Court House Building, 1310 State Street, became the agency’s first location. In these early years, the agency primarily provided home nursing for maternity cases, assisting in the delivery and performing follow-up assessments.
A 1921 law allowed the Schenectady County Board of Supervisors to contract with the agency for welfare clients. Other services included Well Baby Conferences, Child Health Care Clinics in Scotia and Niskayuna, and a home midwifery service, for which one nurse answered calls day or night. Financial problems eased in 1926 when the agency was accepted as a member of the Community Chest.
Miss McGee passed away in November, 1929, and in January, 1930, the agency was incorporated as the Public Health Nursing Association of Schenectady County. With the mission of providing skilled nursing care for the sick in their own homes, teaching hygiene and sanitation and bringing the various community agencies together for mutual helpfulness, the association continued to expand in all directions.
The 1930s and ’40s
The Great Depression hit hard, creating a greater need for free services against rapidly shrinking revenues. There were fewer advisory visits and calls to mothers and babies, and more visits involving bedside care.
During the 1940s, the agency witnessed an increase in the demand for elder care and the chronically ill rather than maternity and child care.
The 1950s and ’60s
In December, 1956, came yet another change to the Visiting Nurse Service Association of Schenectady County, and in 1958 the VNSA moved to 38 Washington Avenue. Later, the VNSA would be named the Visiting Nurse Service of Schenectady and Saratoga Counties (VNS).
The most significant event in the history of home health care and the VNS occurred in 1964 with the establishment of Medicare, national health insurance for people over 65 years of age. In order to receive Medicare reimbursement, the VNS needed to offer other services in addition to nursing, such as physical and occupational therapy.
The next ten years were characterized by technological changes, ushering in a decade of professionalism and modernization. The changing reimbursement climate, encouraging shorter hospital stays, placed greater demands on the agency and, in an effort to ease the transition for patients, the agency placed liaison nurses at two of the local hospitals.
The 1970s and ’80s
This decade placed great emphasis on preventative medicine. The VNS made visits to the Children’s Shelter where they offered physical health guidance, and isolated patients were reached by snowmobile.
As part of a Catholic Family Services program funded by the Office for the Aging, the nurses set up clinics for weekly health and nutrition screening for the elderly in Scotia-Glenville. The VNS received a grant from the Health Systems Agency and the State Office of Health Systems Management to develop a Long Term Home Health Care Program (Nursing Home Without Walls) to keep chronically ill persons in their homes. This program used the VNS and other services, such as home improvement, Meals on Wheels, adult day care and Lifeline.
With program expansion in every direction, the VNS relocated once again to the Glenridge Hospital estate. The money from the sale of 205-207 Union Street was placed in a fund, the Louise York Carmichael Foundation, later the Visiting Nurse Service Association Foundation, Inc., formed to support and promote the delivery of home health care and to provide tuition assistance to VNS applicants.
By 1995, the smaller Long Term Home Health Care Program utilized eight full-time nurses for making 48,000 visits to 130 clients. In addition to skilled nursing, other services were provided: home health aides, personal care, social day care, social transportation, home improvement and maintenance, housekeeping, Meals on Wheels, PT, OT, audiology, speech and an emergency response system. The VNS was also approved as an AIDS Home Care Program Provider. In 1995 a new private duty entity, the VNS Community Care, which operated as the Visiting Nurse Service Caring Connection, was licensed by the Department of Health as a Home Health Care Agency with RN, LPN and PCA services.
On February 28, 2000 the VNS moved to a 30,000 square-foot building at 108 Erie Boulevard, a location that offered greater visibility to the community and helped to foster interdisciplinary communication.
The VNS of today is a certified, non-profit, teaching home health care agency. Its 170 employees made close to 100,000 home visits in Schenectady and Saratoga Counties last year. The VNS continues to offer a wide variety of services managed by a nurse or therapist working under physician orders. Our services include skilled nursing, enterostomal therapy, I.V. therapy, community mental health nursing, physical, occupational and speech therapy, medical social work, nutrition counseling, home health aides and personal care aides.
The VNS offers four distinct Home Health Care Programs. They are:
Home health care for the entire family.
Skilled Nursing (RN, LPN)
Occupational and Physical Therapy
Medical Social Services
Personal Care/Home Health Aide
Managed Long Term Care Benefit
Long Term Care
Maternal Child Health
Emergency Voice Care
It’s been a busy 90 years. As the need for increased services grows, the VNS continues to explore and prepare for the ever-changing challenges of health care.