The history of visiting nurses in the northeast region of Massachusetts began in response to two major developments in the city of Lawrence – its industry, and the compassion of its citizens.
In 1895 the first “district nursing program” was established to provide nursing care at home to mill-working families of Lawrence, Methuen and North Andover. Financing for the program came from the City Mission, a charitable organization in the city of Lawrence.
By the early 1900s, the Red Cross in neighboring North Andover started its own district nurse program called Andover Visiting Nurse Association. In 1950, the town of Andover took over management. It was operated independently by the town until 1976, when it merged with the Lawrence General Hospital Visiting Nurse Department. In 1979, the department separated from the hospital, and became known as Greater Lawrence Home Health and Nursing Services, Inc. In 1984, the agency reorganized, changed their name to Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Lawrence and included a hospice division known as Hospice of Greater Lawrence, and established HomeCare, Inc. In 1986, the Visiting Nurse Association of Greater Lawrence changed their name to VNA HomeCare. In 1988, Hospice of Greater Lawrence was incorporated and the name changed to Merrimack Valley Hospice.
In 1968, an agency in Haverhill known as Homemaker-Home Health Aide Service of Greater Haverhill was established with United Fund seed money as a homemaker/home health agency. In the early 1980s, the agency became Medicare certified and began operating as an official visiting nurse association. In 1992, the name was changed to Home Health VNA.
In 1995, both Home Health VNA and VNA HomeCare were looking for agencies with whom to partner in order to retain their tradition as non-profit visiting nurse associations in the face of for-profit home health organizations and the changing health care environment. The two agencies merged retaining Home Health VNA, HomeCare, Inc. and Merrimack Valley Hospice.
In 1899, the Community Nursing Association was started in Malden when it hired a trained nurse, Miss Ella A. Myers, to perform community nursing. The development of the Association was in response to an industrial fire at the Boston Shoe Factory in 1875, which spurred community leaders to rally around those impacted by the accident, and which eventually led to the development of a day nursery and community visiting nursing some years later. With support from M. Ida Converse in 1940, upon her death left $20,000 to the Association to support the Community Nursing Association program. In 1997, the Community Nursing Association merged with The Malden Hospital to become Hallmark Health VNA & Hospice.
In 1908, the city of Lowell, a private corporation called the Locks and Canals (charged with regulating the flow of the Merrimack River) funded the Middlesex Women’s Club and requested they begin their own home nursing program. Two nurses were hired: Miss Katherine Walsh and Miss Blanche M. Craven. Later, the nursing program would be named Visiting Nurses Association of Greater Lowell. In 2014, VNA of Greater Lowell partnered with Circle Health to become Circle Home.
Today, Home Health Foundation is comprised of both hospice and home health providers, delivering care to people of all ages in their homes, in facilities, and with a wide variety of diagnoses and needs. Our care teams travel to homes in southern Maine, southern and eastern New Hampshire and eastern Massachusetts. Home Health Foundation became a proud member of Wellforce in 2018 and is partnering with our hospital and physician providers on new and innovative programs as healthcare continues to change and care in the home becomes ever more important.