In Easton in 1916 at the home of an Easton businessman, Harry Mitchell, a group of concerned citizens gathered to discuss the lack of medical services to the poor. At that meeting the Easton Visiting Nurse Association was born.
The association started with one nurse, Rachel Walp. Riding her bike to each home visit, she worked in coordination with a doctor and helped patients heal. Payments for services were optional, so the agency relied on fundraisers and donations.
Today the Easton VNA is now knows as Easton Home Health. They employ over 20 clinical and administrative staff.
While much has changed, much has stayed the same. Or as Home Health Nurse Linda Forstoffer says, “Sometimes the old ideas are the best ideas.”
As their 100th birthday draws near, Easton Home Health will celebrate the anniversary on June 15th with a party at Easton Hospital.
Visiting nurses faced it all from delivering babies to treating global pandemics, like influenza, polio and tuberculosis.
But they didn’t have many tools to help. Nurses used supplies provided by the patient and shared medical resources, like stethoscopes and blood pressure cuffs, with other nurses.
In the 1960s, Medicare began to cover the costs of home care. Nurses were able to get their own medical tools. By the 1970s, the number of procedures home health nurses could complete had grown to include wound care and blood draws. Care was also available 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
In the 1980s most insurance plans would reimburse for home care. Procedures expanded to include tube feedings, IV care, physical therapy and occupational therapy.
Home health nurses today still help deliver care, but they also serve to educate patients in order to prevent illness and promote health.
Most Home Health Nurses visit six to seven patients a day. While the patients’ conditions may vary, they are usually grouped by vicinity.
“Most home visits follow a similar progression,” says Linda. She’s been working as a Home Health Nurse for over 20 years. “Nurses gather vital signs and then assess the patient’s health by asking a battery of questions.”
Nurses then communicate with physicians, family and various community organizations that might help patients progress.
Linda says it’s possible to get to know the patient more personally. “I know who they are, what they like and what matters most for each patient,” she says. “Those details help me remove barriers that can keep patients from being healthy.”
When care is not routine like a home visit, patients can go around and around. “They get caught in a spiral of getting worse and getting better,” Linda says. “But a home visit can get them moving forward.”
Despite the advances in drugs, technology and technique, some of the core principles remain the same in hands-on care. “Like the days of Florence Nightingale, some old ideas are still important to health,” she says. “One idea is how a caring community assists with healing.”
There is nothing like a significant milestone to bring a community together.
“Anniversaries are special days for the community because it does take a village to keep each member healthy,” she says.
Easton Home Health has been in the community for 100 years because patients feel the care is top notch. “Patients see the kindness, compassion and skill,” Linda says. “It’s what will keep us here for the next 100 years.”
250 South 21st Street
Easton, PA 18042-3892