During the Depression the Victorian Order of Nurses moved more to relief work

The short-term 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.

By 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.

The 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.

World 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 too.

In the 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 organization.

Other work 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.
A video clip on the VON
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A video clip on the Depression
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