VNA to Celebrate 125th Anniversary

Released: 5/21/2010

The Visiting Nursing Association (VNA) of Western New York will celebrate its 125th anniversary, with a calendar of events this summer and fall honoring alumni, employees, current physician partners and longtime employees.

Founded in 1885, the VNA was the first visiting nursing organization in America.

Since then, they have become one of the oldest charities in the nation and remain the largest home health agency in the Western New York region.  Headquarted on Wehrle Drive in Williamsville, the VNA is a Kaleida Health subsidiary.

The VNA offers products and home care services for everyone from newborns to elderly patients.

It offers a full range of services including pediatric and adult skilled nursing and therapies, chronic disease management, home infusion therapy, mental health care, obstetrical services, respiratory equipment and care as well as personal response systems.

Among the events being planned for the year long celebration:

• Community Event – A “gala” to be held in November
• Historical Artifacts Exhibits & Displays at various events
• Community based events in Chautauqua, Genesee, Allegany and Niagara counties
• Legislative & “VIP” patient home visits across Western New York
• 125th Commemorative Calendar
• VNA “Patient Day”
• Employee Picnic & Recognition Events

The VNA provides services to residents in all eight Western New York counties including Erie, Niagara, Orleans, Genesee, Chautauqua, Cattaraugus, Allegany and Wyoming.

The history of the VNA here is rich and deep.  According to the Smithsonian Institute, in 1885, Elizabeth Coe Marshall, a Sunday school teacher at the First Presbyterian Church collected funds to hire a nurse to provide free nursing among the sick and poor in the City of Buffalo, thus began the practice of nurses traveling to the homes of the sick, recuperating, and disabled Americans.

In 1885, about 75% of America’s 50 million people lived on farms or in rural hamlets. Tuberculosis was the greatest killer of adults. Other common diseases suffered in that period included bronchitis, rheumatism, kidney and circulatory ailments, malaria, syphilis, and small pox. Life expectancy was around 40.

Medical science had just discovered that certain bacteria could cause human disease. The hospital system was in its infancy, with less than 700 in the entire country. Physicians were normally generalists who treated the entire family.

Nurses in the area trained at the Buffalo General Hospital School of Nursing, which was founded in 1877. They also provided care in people’s homes—for those who could afford to pay for it. Elizabeth Coe Marshall thought that home care should be provided for all, regardless of their ability to pay, and created the vision of a non-profit organization dedicated to that concept. Marshall got the idea after she was ill as a result of an accident, and care was provided by a nurse in her home.



Marshall approached her church, the First Presbyterian, for some monetary support to get started. Funds left over from a memorial fund set up for the son of the pastor were used to pay for the services of the first visiting nurse. She hired Mary Taylor as the first visiting nurse, fresh from graduation from the Buffalo General School.



Marshall died just a few years later, in 1892, but by that time the VNA of Western New York was firmly established. VNAs in Boston and Philadelphia started on the heels of Elizabeth’s dream, but the visiting nurse movement began right here in Buffalo, New York.



From those humble beginnings in Western New York, the VNA movement migrated across the country.

Today, there are over 500 visiting nurse associations, employing more than 90,000 clinicians, providing health care to more than 4 Million people each year. VNAs provide a critical safety net in communities, enabling our patients to continue to live independently at home. The VNA of WNY has evolved to be one of the largest VNA's in the country, and an integral part of the healthcare landscape of our communities.
Key facts and figures about the VNA of Western New York of today:

• Over 900 employees
• 98% Patient Satisfaction
• Average Daily Census (all services) – 6,500 patients
• Annual Certified Home Visits – 330,000
• Unduplicated Patient Count (Certified) – 16,000
• Unduplicated Patient Count (All Services) – 21,000
• Community Immunization Program providing 50,000 shots/season
• 95% Referral Source Satisfaction