During the Depression
the Victorian Order of Nurses moved more to relief work
focus of the Victorian Order of Nurses in Edmonton changed with the worldwide
influenza epidemic following the Great War. They were busy treating patients
in their homes and trying to halt the spread of the disease. Other epidemics
in later years had to be dealt with too; smallpox, diphtheria, typhoid and
scarlet fever all showed up in the province at some point.
the mid-1920s, most of the post-natal work had been taken over by government
agencies and more emphasis was placed on education and particularly preventive
nursing care. The branch began giving fieldwork training for hospital nursing
students, as well as home-birth training for medical students.
emphasis changed again during the Depression when the nurses moved almost
entirely from bedside nursing to relief work. Since it had remained a voluntary
organization that did its own fund-raising, the hard times required the flexibility
to do what was necessary as nursing fees were few and far between. They spent
a lot of time collecting food and clothing and distributing it to those they
knew were in need. By the late 1930s, things had switched back to bedside
nursing and they found their patients to be pretty evenly divided among maternity
and infants, medical and surgical, and chronic and communicable diseases.
War II changed things again and the VON nurses spent a great deal of time
visiting soldiers' wives and young families. Later on there were still a
lot of night calls to peoples' homes to administer drugs and change dressings
and catheters and they continued to do pre-natal care and classes, often
working with other agencies. Sharing their knowledge and experience of home
nursing with hospital trained student nurses remained a part of their mandate
1960s, the Edmonton hospitals began a referral program for the VON nurses to
assist with discharge care, making acute care beds available more quickly.
Perhaps one of the most well known services that the VON was asked to take
on was the Meals-On-Wheels program. Originally seen as a need by some church
organizations, they lobbied the provincial Department of Social Services for
funds. The service began in 1968 with a number of different organizations preparing
the food. Packaging was designed with the help of a former board member and
volunteers delivered the hot food to those who were not able to prepare meals
for themselves. The program is still in existence today as an independent
has involved the Edmonton branch with the Women in Crisis project and the WIN
house, a shelter for battered women. The ever-flexible group also began the operation
of an adult day care centre to provide services to the frail and elderly.