The Cornerstone Of
Home Care In The Community
The year 2008 marked our 90th anniversary. Visiting nurses are as welcome in homes
today as they were in 1919 when our agency began. Through compassion and expert care we
provide comfort to you and your family – making it possible to recover or live with illness at home,
surrounded by the people and things you love. We’ve been making house calls for more than 90 years!
The VNS Timeline
For nearly a century, VNS has been at the forefront of responding to illness with care and comfort. Here are some of the highlights of the Visiting Nurse Service history, founded in 1919 as the first homecare agency in Monroe County:
- The influenza epidemic of 1918 clearly identified the need for a visiting nurse service organization in Rochester.
- Mary Laird, a graduate from the Rochester City (General) Hospital School of Nursing (1909) was asked to form a visiting nurse service in Rochester in 1918. Graduate nurses from the four city hospitals’ District Nurse Programs formed the nucleus of this community health organization.
- In efforts spearheaded by the Social Workers Club, a mass meeting of community agencies - including the Health Committee of the Chamber of Commerce, the County Medical Society, and many others - met on January 27, 1919, to discuss and pass a resolution for the formation of a Public Health Nursing Association (PHNA).
- Visiting Nurse Service of Rochester and Monroe County, Inc. (VNS) was founded in 1919 as the Public Health Nursing Association. The PHNA was officially incorporated on May 22, 1920; a board of directors of 12 was elected.
- First Executive Director, Mary Laird, organized eight nurses from various social agencies for home nursing visits within the city of Rochester limits. Services grew and included prenatal care, maternal/child health, nutrition ("milk stations"), care for victims of flu and polio, and a Public Supply Department. The Red Cross and the Community Chest (now the United Way of Greater Rochester) began funding the agency.
- PHNA moved to its sixth home, 130 Spring St., the Brewster-Baker House, in 1930; the service grew rapidly in the 1930’s. The Depression increased the number of patients who could not pay for services. Tuberculosis was widespread, the infant mortality rate was high and language difficulties were frequent. The Federal Government’s Temporary Emergency Relief Administration assigned 12 nurses to care for patients on relief.
- In 1940, PHNA changed its name to the Visiting Nurse Association, Inc. Challenges mounted, as numerous staff members resigned to enter war work at a time when services were expanding.
- Proudly, more than 1200 volunteers served VNA in1941.
- PHNA continued to rapidly grow in the 1940’s and 1950’s, aided by home care costs being covered by more industries and private insurance companies. Diabetes education increased and, as treatments advanced, cancer and cardiac patients received extended services.
- Services were extended throughout Monroe County in 1947, but initially for services that could be paid in full only.
- In 1949, agency headquarters were moved to 500 East Ave., known as the Ellwanger Home, now occupied by the Rochester Area Community Foundation. That year, a record 108,399 home-visits were made.
- In 1954, VNA changed its name to Visiting Nurse Service of Rochester and Monroe County, Inc., emphasizing the fact that VNS served all of Monroe County.
- Meals On Wheels began in 1958; meals were cooked and served from the Ellwanger Home. Physical therapy services began, and cancer and cardiac patients received increased services as treatments advanced.
- The 1960’s and 1970’s saw more programs added like occupational and speech therapies. Social workers were added too. VNS agreed to oversee the Homemaker Service for Adults, formerly run by the Council Social Agencies, renaming the program the Visiting Home Aide Service. The Home Health Aide program got underway in 1961 and within a year was staffed with 77 women.
- The initiation of the Medicare and Medicaid programs made funding available for home health agencies to add or extend services for the poor and elderly. The average cost of a home visit in 1964 was $5.19.
- The Personalized Service Bureau was established to serve the chronically ill and aged, providing cleaning, home repairs, shopping, companion visits, escort service for medical appointments, and acquisition of medical supplies.
- During 1965, 36% of all visits were made to persons 75 years and over; 26% to those between 64 and 75 years of age. Meals On Wheels was able to serve one third more people in 1973 than in 1972.
- VNS continued to grow in the 1980’s. Cardio-pulmonary, pediatric and infusion therapy programs were added, and a second office was opened in Greece, NY.
- VNS responded to changing community health care needs and sharp reimbursement reductions with innovative programs and services, unique partnerships and advanced technology. Laptop computers connected nurses in the field to the agency, allowing them to record and transmit patient information, and a computerized phone system enabled home health aides to track visit activity quickly and efficiently, both forms of technology saved critical time when meeting patient needs.
- During 1986, 292,400 hours of home health aide and 20,200 hours of personal care aide services were provided.
- Launched in 1987 as a for-profit, licensed agency, Community Care of Rochester, Inc. (CCR) served seniors who pay for home care with their own funds (private pay cases), long term insurance or those who wanted more care than Medicare would cover. CCR established its own Home Health Aide (HHA) Department in 1990 to meet the needs of the private pay sector of the community.
- VNS began operating its Long-Term Home Health Care Program (LTHHCP) with 250 patient slots in 1989. As a comprehensive health service, patients now can live in the comfort and security of their homes without compromising quality of life; a positive alternative to institutionalization for the disabled or the chronically ill in need of ongoing healthcare.
- In 1991, VNS received state approval to become a certified Hospice, admitting its first patient in May of 1992.
- LTHHCP added in 1995, an HIV/AIDS component as a positive alternative to hospitalization for patients who are HIV+ or diagnosed with AIDS and in need of ongoing health care.
- In 1997, VNS announced an affiliation agreement with the University of Rochester's Strong Health, completed in 1999. VNS and CCR moved closer together as CCR assumed management responsibilities for the VNS HHA Department and converted to a not-for-profit status. This theme of consolidation continued as both agencies adopted a common board and administrative staff in 2001.
- In 2003, Community Care of Rochester, Inc. formally changed its name to Visiting Nurse Signature Care.
Desiring to prevent health emergencies for patients with complex conditions, VNS established its Telehealth program in 2006. This innovative initiative uses cutting edge technology to enable VNS nurses to observe patients’ vital signs daily and educate patients about their health even between nursing visits. It has reduced hospital readmissions by up to 50 percent. To learn more Telehealth, visit our Telehealth page or watch a video about Telehealth here.
In 2006 VNS nurses began providing visits for Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP), a program administered locally by Monroe County. The Nurse-Family Partnership is an evidenced-based home visitation program that improves the health, well-being and self-sufficiency of low-income, first-time mothers and their children. To learn more, visit our Nurse Family Partnership page.
To improve the safety of high risk patients during and after hospital discharge, Visiting Nurse Service began offering a Transition Coaching program in 2010. Nurses and social workers empower patients to take charge of their well-being and teach them skills necessary to maintain and improve their health during and after this 30 day program. To learn more, visit our Transition Coaching page.
- In 2013, Visiting Nurse Service of Rochester expanded its service area from one to seven counties. First it acquired Finger Lakes Visiting Nurse Service (FLVNS). VNS and FLVNS had a long history together, as VNS assisted with FLVNS's establishment in 1990 and owned 25 percent of the agency since its inception. The two non-profits always considered themselves sister agencies, and the transition to one homecare agency was smooth. FLVNS remains a separate agency with its own board of directors, and continues to serve Wayne, Ontario, Yates and Seneca counties. The same year, VNS was approved by the New York State Department of Health to begin serving residents of Livingston and Wyoming counties. VNS, an affiliate of the University of Rochester Medical Center (URMC), expanded to improve fixed cost ratios and to serve more patients who are discharged from URMC facilities.
Also in 2013, VNS became involved with two health homes. A health home is a new model of care in which providers and community agencies collaborate to serve people with Medicaid coverage and multiple health issues. VNS provides home care services for the Greater Rochester Health Home Network (GRHHN) and Health Home of Upstate New York (HHUNY), and also provides care management for GRHHN. To learn more, visit our Health Home page.