Bringing HEART to Homecare since 1909
1909 – Our beginning
In March of 1909, 80 women representing 21 churches and charitable
organizations, met in Bridgeport City Hall because of their concerns
about the spread of the great white plague, tuberculosis. The ladies
discussed ways to combat the disease and agreed that the most practical
and expedient solution was to secure and finance a visiting nurse
to care for homebound tuberculosis patients and to teach families
how to protect themselves against infection. This group of concerned
women laid the foundation for today’s Visiting Nurse Services
of Connecticut. They pledged to raise funds for supplies and hired
the first visiting nurse, Miss Finnegan, to make home visits to
those suffering from tuberculosis.
From the very beginning, the members of the Bridgeport Visiting
Nurse Association recognized the importance of involving community
groups in their service. The ladies wrote letters and visited business
leaders, doctors, churches and social groups. They raised money
by selling Tuberculosis Christmas Seals and putting on shows and
dances. It was reported that the nursing care and supplies, including
fresh milk, were alleviating “more than 100 cases of dire
poverty and despair.” The fee for a visit ranged from 5 cents
to 50 cents, depending on a family’s circumstances. The nurse
was paid $32.50 a month for a 56 hour work week. She made her way
around the city on a bicycle.
Before the end of 1910, the Association was able to hire a second nurse.
In those early years, the Association operated out of private homes and rooms offered by the YMCA. Later, free office space was provided in the Charities Building on Fairfield Avenue in Bridgeport. In 1913, expansion required larger quarters and the office was moved to 474 State Street. In 1914, student nurses from Bridgeport and St. Vincent’s Hospitals came to the agency for a two-month course in public health nursing.
During that same year, the agency signed a contract with Metropolitan Life Insurance Company to provide service at 50 cents per visit to its industrial policy holders.
By the time America entered World War I in 1917, the agency, which had grown to include seven nurses and a supervisor, moved to the Associated Charities Building at 715 Main Street.
The agency’s resources were put to the test during the great
flu epidemic of 1918, when during the month of October alone, the
nurses helped 640 influenza patients.
In 1919, The Hemlocks, a vacation house for children who were anemic,
badly nourished or convalescing from serious illness, opened. The
Association provided vacations for 59 children and four mothers
in the first three months the camp was open. The camp operated under
the guidance of the agency until after World War II.
By the end of our first decade of service, the agency’s staff of 17 was making nearly 20,000 visits a year.
As the agency began its second decade of service, the fee for a visit was 75 cents.
In 1920, Camp Hemlocks was held in a house in Easton loaned to the agency by the Bridgeport Hydraulic Company. Later, land was donated in Nichols by Peter Davey. In 1923, the Bridgeport Lions Club agreed to help raise funds for the camp, which made it possible to build the permanent facilities necessary to hold summer camp each year for disabled children.
Because of the increasing need for obstetrical support, the board unanimously approved beginning this service in 1921. Several nurses agreed to take up residence in the Black Rock apartments where they would answer any night calls.
The agency grew to accommodate the increasing needs of the city and became incorporated in 1922. A contract similar to the one with Metropolitan Life was signed with the John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance Company.
The nurses’ blue-gray gingham uniforms were purchased for $6.50 each from Bruck’s Uniform Company.
In 1924, Sunday visits began for “urgent cases,” and
a Model T Ford, which had replaced the nurses’ bicycles as
the standard mode of transportation, was itself replaced by an Essex.
In December 1924, the agency left its quarters on Lafayette Boulevard
and moved to three rooms in the new medical building at 144 Golden
In 1926, the first motherhood classes were given in cooperation with the YWCA. During that year, less than half of the babies born in Bridgeport were delivered in the hospital. Home births were the custom and visiting nurses attended more than 25 percent of them. More than 10,000 visits were made to deliver either prenatal or postnatal care.
As the Roaring Twenties drew to a close, the agency’s sources
of income began to shift from private donations and fundraising
to contracts with insurance companies. Between 1920 and 1929, the
visit fee increased form 75 cents to 95 cents; revenues increased
from $32,000 to $62,500 and the number of visits increased from
30,000 to 60,000. The staff grew from 15 to 28 and the agency moved
once again, this time to 551 Broad Street.
The Association, like all other urban services, was greatly affected
by the Great Depression. The number of agency visits, staff and
income dwindled. In 1931, all staff rallied to the agency in its
time of need and voluntarily took a cut in salary to try and make
In 1932, an analysis of families being treated by the agency revealed that less than one third had any wage earners.
In 1933, there were 26 nurses who volunteered two weeks off duty without pay in order to help meet the agency deficit.
In 1934, both nursing and office staff were given one week vacation
without pay. That same year, the agency agreed to assign a nurse
to provide home care for polio patients.
The first physical therapist, Miss Audrey Shannon, was hired in 1935 to help children with disabilities resulting from Polio. She and two assistants provided a very active orthopedic service for disabled children.
In 1935, the agency moved to 295-297 Golden Hill Street. Metropolitan
Life and John Hancock Mutual Life Insurance companies now provided
home care services for their own patients. Agency fees from patients
decreased, Community Chest campaigns were consistently unsuccessful
and visits decreased over the course of the decade. Visits declined
from 61,258 to 40,255 during this time.
Both the nursing profession and the agency made considerable strides
in the 1940’s. A generous bequest from board member Frances
Leigh bolstered the agency’s meager coffers.
Agency nurses were encouraged to enroll in college public health
nursing programs. They were actively involved in community defense
efforts and taught Red Cross first aid classes for area residents.
Amelia Meyersieck, the agency’s director, served as Fairfield
County chairman on the Connecticut State Nurses Association’s
committee on defense. Senior cadet nurses were accepted for six
months of service with the VNA as a part of the wartime training
In 1945, the agency sold securities to purchase property at 87 Washington
Avenue from the Bridgeport Chapter of the American Red Cross for
The agency contracted with the Veteran’s Administration to provide home care for vets suffering from service-related disabilities.
Camp Hemlocks was sold to the Connecticut Society for Crippled Children and Adults.
The agency records from the 40's indicate a shortage of qualified
staff and high turnover rates as many nurses entered active military
service. Fees for a visit increased from $1.29 to $1.49. Visits
decreased from 41, 641 to 36, 778.
The loss of three major sources of income combined to strike a major
blow to public health nursing services available to the city, and
the agency was forced to reduce its staff from 22 to 14. The Community
Chest campaign fell short of its goal, the VNA discontinued its
annual tuberculosis seal sale, and Met Life and John Hancock discontinued
their policy of providing maternity and home nursing for their policy
In 1957, agency director, Anna Gring, wrote that her staff of nine nurses encountered increasingly complex social and health problems in the community. Six of these nurses made their daily rounds in cars and three were “walking or running nurses” who covered several miles each day on foot.
The nursing profession continued to evolve. The National League
for Nursing was born as a result of the merger of the National League
for Nursing Education, the National Organization for Public Health
Nursing and the National Association of Collegiate Schools of Nursing.
The trend toward collegiate nursing educations continued, prompting
the agency to re-examine its student program. The 39-year old relationship
with Bridgeport and St. Vincent hospitals' schools of nursing was
discontinued and a contract was signed with the newly organized
University of Bridgeport College of Nursing for a two-month supervised
Public Health Nursing Field Experience for basic nursing students.
In 1957, the physical therapy program was re-started after a lapse
of 18 years. Mrs. Sanford Stoddard, who had served as president
from 1919 to 1920 and remained very active in the agency, was named
the board’s first lifetime member.
In 1958, Anna Gring was loaned to the University of Bridgeport to help develop its public health nursing curriculum.
Also in 1958, Raymond Hargraves was the first man appointed president
of the board.
During the 50's, visits dwindled from 35,756 to 17,365 and charges
increased from $1.49 to $4.55 per visit.
The social turbulence of the 60's resulted in the promotion of civil
rights and programs for the poor, the uneducated and the aging.
One such program was Medicare, which was established to care for
Americans over the age of 65. Benefits were available to all citizens
who qualified, regardless of their income. Congress then established
the Medicaid program for low-income persons in need of medical care.
Five years after its introduction, Medicaid required states to include
In 1960, 24-hour phone service began at the agency and service
was extended to include the Town of Monroe.
Statistical work of the agency changed from manual to semi-mechanical tabulation in 1963 and to data processing in 1968.
By the middle of the decade, the agency received certification under Medicare and accreditation from the National League for Nursing. During the first two months that Medicare was in effect, the number of visits to those over the age of 65 increased by 60 percent.
The cost of a nursing visit rose from $5.72 in 1960 to $14.33 in
1968. Transportation evolved from the one Essex sedan to a fleet
of 17 agency-owned vehicles. Speech therapy was offered for the
first time to homebound Medicare patients.
In 1969, Anna Gring retired after serving 17 years as the agency’s executive director; Lillian Snellman was chosen to succeed her.
During the 70's, cost containment became the watchword in health
care. New patterns of health care delivery emerged including health
maintenance organizations (HMOs).
The agency began providing services at two clinics: 3030 Park Residence and the Crippled Children’s Clinic.
For nine months in 1971, one of the agency's nurses worked as a
home care coordinator at Park City Hospital. As a result of this
demonstration project, the hospital decided to hire its own full-time
home care coordinator. By 1972, all three Bridgeport hospitals were
closely coordinating their services with home care agencies to improve
the continuity of care.
Annual budget deficits climbed in the 70's, as the uncompensated
care caseload increased. In order for the agency to continue to
provide services in maternal/child health, communicable diseases
and mental health, it contracted with the City of Bridgeport to
provide care for local residents.
In 1973, the agency decided to provide home health aide services
directly, whereas until that point, these services were provided
through a contract with Family Services Woodfield, now FSW. This
enhanced the agency’s ability to respond to the ever increasing
demand for personal care services. The agency’s home health
aide service began in January 1974 with four aides; by the end of
the year, the staff had grown to 16.
By 1976, 24 hour a day and holiday service were available and the
agency made history by being the first to institute its own certified
training program for home health aides.
In 1977, the agency added its social work program, through a contract with Catholic Charities of The Diocese of Bridgeport. The social work capability made it possible for the agency to provide effective support for its patients’ emotional needs and financial concerns.
The agency moved to North Avenue to accommodate an increasing staff size. In 1980, record growth was noted with a 30 percent increase in the number of visits and a 40 percent increase in the number of patients.
At the beginning of the decade, the agency participated in a collaborative effort with the three Bridgeport hospitals and other local non-profit home health providers to plan an area hospice program. The agency accepted responsibility for being the lead agency in this consortium, and the first patient was admitted into the program in 1981.
Concerns about cost-effective care accelerated with the implementation
of the Social Security Amendments of 1983, affecting the entire
health care industry. Under the law, a prospective payment system
was established based on 467 diagnosis-related groups.
While hospitals were sending patients home sooner, Medicare was
denying the more intensive home care support they needed. The reimbursement
formulas contributed to patients’ anxiety about whether they
were receiving quality care at home, and as a result, minimum safety
standards for home care providers were enacted by the federal government.
In the late 80's, the National League for Nursing created the Community
Health Accreditation Program (CHAP) to provide objective measurement
of home care quality. The agency maintained its CHAP accreditation
In 1985, Partners in Care, Inc. was formed to provide private duty
quality of life care.
In 1986, the board of directors decided to broaden the service
area to include Easton, Fairfield, Stratford and Trumbull.
In 1987, Lillian Snellman retired and William F. Sullivan, Jr. was named Chief Executive Officer.
Adding to the agency's growth curve was a merger, during 1988,
with the Visiting Nurse Association of Southbury and Roxbury, Inc.
During 1989, the agency opened an office in the Town of Torrington
in Northwest Connecticut and home health service began there.
As the 90's dawned, the agency's budget totaled $4,700,000 and
nursing visits exceeded 91,000.
The agency relocated its headquarters to 765 Fairfield Avenue in
Bridgeport during the 90s.
In 1990, the agency began chronic care visits to the frail elderly, with a goal of making it possible for them to remain safely and independently at home as long as possible.
Also, the Hospice at Home program became Medicare-certified, a
high-risk Maternal/Child Health program was added to provide support
for mothers and babies with special needs and a Children’s
Bereavement Support Group was formed to help young children cope
with the death of loved ones.
In 1993, the agency opened an office in Derby to serve residents
of Connecticut's lower Naugatuck valley.
In May of 1996, the agency began providing services to shoreline residents from a new office in Branford.
Congress subsequently passed the Balanced Budget Act of 1997, which
was intended to save Medicare from bankruptcy in 2001. This act
intended to reduce the Medicare budget by $115 billion over five
years. Home care received a proportionately greater reduction than
other segments of the health care delivery system.
In July 1998, a Norwalk office was added and care began for residents
in the greater Norwalk/Stamford area.
During the 90's, the agency also introduced home infusion (IV)
therapy and psychiatric nursing.
2000 - The New Century
In 2000, VNS of Connecticut established a new and exciting link
with St. Vincent Hospital's Swim Across the Sound. A fund was created
to help support hospice patients with terminal cancer and their
In 2000, we received accreditation from the Joint Commission on
Health Care Accreditation (JCAHO) with an exemplary high grid score
– the highest the agency had ever received.
On October 1, 2000, Medicare’s Prospective Payment System
(PPS) was applied to the home care industry. This dramatically altered
the manner in which home care agencies submitted information and
were reimbursed for covered care.
In 2002, the agency incorporated telehealth into its array of services.
Through a lease of over 80 HomMed telemonitors, VNS has since been
able to remotely monitor patients’ vital signs (blood pressure,
heart rate, weight, temperature and oxygen saturation) on a daily
basis, without the patient having to leave home. This enables our
nurses to intervene much earlier than might otherwise have been
Also in 2002, the agency formally created IV Therapy and Palliative Care programs.
In 2003, the agency hired a bereavement coordinator to provide
services for family members of hospice patients for up to 13 months
after the death of their loved one.
In 2003 our Wound Care Specialists began using a Vacuum Assisted
Closure (VAC) device on patients with significant wounds. This device
enhances wound contraction and accelerates healing. It has become
a key component of our growing Wound Care Program.
In 2003 we incorporated a comprehensive on-line database of patient
education materials for our clinicians. We customized the system
for individual patients in both English and Spanish.
In July 2003, our JCAHO accreditation was renewed.
Also in 2003, Medicare launched its Home Care Compare statistical
comparison of home health agencies on its website, www.medicare.gov,
and VNS has continued to compare favorably to both state and national
averages for clinical outcomes.
In June 2005, the agency had a site visit from CHAP and Initial Accreditation
was granted from June 24, 2005 to June 23, 2008. CHAP awarded a
commendation to the agency for our commitment to providing high
quality programs and services, based on our HEART values program.
On July 1, 2005, United Visiting Nurse Association’s
(UVNA) employees transitioned to Visiting Nurse Services of Connecticut
(VNS) and the UVNA Trumbull location became the fifth and largest
branch of VNS, positioning the agency to successfully serve the
community and meet the future needs of an ever-changing health care
industry. UVNA began as the Fairfield Visiting Nurse Association
in 1917. In 1989, the agency merged with Trumbull Public Health
Nursing Services and the Home Health Division of Family Services
Woodfield (FSW) to become United Home Care. In 1997, United Home
Care formed a strategic alliance with the Southern Connecticut Health
System (now Bridgeport Hospital Healthcare Services, Inc.), the
parent company of Bridgeport Hospital . Through that relationship,
the agency became part of the Yale-New Haven Health System. In July
2000, United Home Care officially changed its name to UVNA.