The Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Missouri (VNA) began serving the six Bootheel counties of Mississippi, Scott, New Madrid, Stoddard, Pemiscot and Dunklin on August 23, 1973. Our name in the beginning was SEMO Regional Home Health Agency. We were young and we were eager to serve.
The agency was born from a need in the community first recognized and acted upon by the directors of the County Health Departments in the Bootheel. These visionaries saw a need for a new approach to health care that encompassed “going back” to the past – providng care in the Home! These leaders felt there must be a better way to improve the delivery of health care to the general population of the Bootheel of Missouri without sacrificing quality of care or increasing the cost. Patients required lengthy periods of recuperation that were either keeping people in the hospital for an extended period of time at great expense, or caused individuals to return home prematurely resulting in a return to the hospital for possibly an even more costly stay at a later date.
So, together they applied for and received a grant from the state of Missouri for the necessary funding to start a Home Health program in southeast Missouri. Within one year, their program had become so successful that it could continue without further government support. These leaders became the first board of directors and continued to guide and support the program they fathered well into their retirement years ~ some, until their deaths.
In the early 1980’s, VNA Community Services, an In-Home Homemaker/Chore and Personal Care Program was added to the Home Health Nursing and Therapies Program. Chronically ill clients who were having difficulties in managing their Activities of Daily Living were being forced into nursing homes simply because they could no longer maintain themselves in their own homes. Our society was continuing to expand out and away from the nuclear family so much so that adult children lived too far away to provide routine support to aging parents. Still, with a little support several times a week, these seniors could safely continue to reside comfortably in their own private homes. The cost was nominal and the rewards great. What better place to spend your days than in your own home?!
In April 1985, SEMO Regional Home Health became known as the Visiting Nurse Association of Southeast Missouri (VNA) so as to make our not-for-profit status more widely known and to tap into greater community awareness of the services available through the Visiting Nurse Association of America’s (VNAA) awareness programs. It was in 1985 three more counties were added to the VNA service area: Cape, Perry and Bollinger. An office was opened in Cape Girardeau and the Chaffee office was moved to Cape shortly afterwards. Soon after, Butler and Madison counties were added at the request of those residents. This brought the number of counties served to eleven.
In August 1985, VNA Private Duty Program was born. Nurses were assigned shifts for the first time to care for a child on a ventilator at home. Up to this time, Home Health Nurses entered the home, staying as long as was necessary, to assess a patient’s condition, provide the teaching and care needed to promote improved health and then left the family caregiver to carry on with the care that had been initiated. Patient independence along with regained good health was the goal. Now, the VNA was staffing Private Duty Nurses around the clock with patients facing long-term acute care needs, providing them with total care: nursing, medication administration, therapeutic exercises, personal hygiene and grooming, meal preparation, laundry and assistance with other household tasks. Thanks to VNA Private Duty and the resources of the Missouri Medicaid Waiver Program, infants and children with birth defects were given the opportunity to come home from the hospital despite continuing health care needs. Families were able to stay together. They were taught how to provide the care their child needed in the safety of home. They learned much and they learned well. Years later, many of those family caregivers became nurses too. Many of those children now live fruitful lives despite the odds against them at the start.
All through the years, VNA nurses have cared for those terminal illnesses. In 1993, VNA Hospice officially sought certification for the VNA Hospice program. This meant that we could offer the patients facing a terminal illness even more support and caring than ever before. Our social workers could help the families and friends as well as the patients. Hospice could provide the medication, supplies and equipment that would make these patients more comfortable in their own homes. Our Pastoral Care Clergy could offer spiritual support. And the patients and families could access the much needed Volunteers that are not available otherwise. Hospice not only supports our patients before death but also the families after death up to a full thirteen months after the death of their loved one. We could do so much more than ever before.
In 2000, a branch office was opened in Poplar Bluff to serve Ripley, Carter and Wayne counties added to the service area.
In the spring of 2003, VNA Home Medical Equipment and Supplies was born. Designed to allow greater independence and safety for those recovering at home from illness or surgery and to improve the comfort of hospice patients, medical equipment and supplies are delivered and serviced throughout the fifteen county VNA service area. Diabetic testing supplies and ostomy supplies are also available. Because VNA has a certified lymphedema specialist on staff, a new line of support wear was added to the VNA supply line.
In June 2005, VNA changed to a Point of Care software documentation system called, Homecare Homebase, a more up-to-date, less restrictive system which allowed all clinical staff to document patient care from the patient's home using a small computer with greater communication capabilities. This new system allowed the patients' physicians access to their home care records. Now, physicians and all clinical staff caring for a patient had the same information readily available at their fingertips. Patient confidentiality remains password-protected.
In November 2005, VNA improved communication among the offices by installing IP Telephony. This meant that staff could be reached by outside callers by simply "dialing" an extension from any VNA office. No longer were we asking families and referral sources to call another number to talk to the person they wanted. In-house, staff could also communicate more easily from office to office.
In March 2006 VNA initiated a TeleHealth program for all of southeast Missouri using Honeywell's HomMed Home Monitoring System. Use of this device allowed VNA nurses the opportunity to assess their patients EVERY DAY instead of only a few times each week. Patients are taught how to apply a blood pressure cuff and push some buttons to check their blood pressure, heart rate, oxygen saturation, weight and answer a few specific "yes" or "no" questions every day. A nurse monitors their results which are sent to VNA Central Station over the phone lines. Prior to each office visit, their physician receives a trend report of their progress making those office visits more productive. Trend reports can be sent to the physician as often as desired.
In November 2006 VNA added Consumer Directed Services to our mix of health care programs. This service enables physically disabled individuals to continue to live independently within their own home rather than going to a nursing facility. CDS empowers the Consumer to remain in control of their lives by giving them the freedom to choose their own caregiver. VNA staff numbers have grown much over the years. Most have come, joined the family of VNA caregivers, and continued to give daily to individuals and to families across all of southeast Missouri. All have left a permanent mark on the hearts of patients and co-workers. All are dedicated to giving only their best to those entrusted to their care.
Our difficulty now is not in providing care; it is in letting those who need us know that we are here. After 38 years of service, we still hear over and over again “I wish I had known about your services when ….” We were here then. We are here now. We will be here when you need us. You can indeed feel better just knowing VNA is here.