Michael works as a home health nurse in his suburban community. He visits 7-10 clients each day. On today’s visitations, Michael will provide care for four clients who are recovering from hip replacement surgery and three clients who are recovering from heart surgery, and he will provide intravenous (IV) antibiotics for a man with an infected wound.
Among this list of clients, Michael visits Mrs. T., an 87-year-old white woman who lives alone and is recovering from triple bypass surgery that she underwent a month ago. Michael’s goals are to check on her recovery progress, reload her medications in her weekly medication container, and administer an influenza vaccine.
Upon entering Mrs. T.’s small house, Michael finds the house in disarray: clothes are scattered about, dirty dishes with crusted food line the kitchen counters, and no lights are on. Michael finds Mrs. T. lying in bed watching television. Mrs. T. complains to Michael of feeling too tired to do anything; she eats only what is already prepared (e.g., frozen dinners or snack foods like potato chips) because cooking requires too much effort. She spends most of her days lying in bed and has not bathed in a week.
Michael helps Mrs. T. out of bed and assists her with a bath. After the bath, Michael fixes Mrs. T. a quick lunch and refills her medication box while she eats. Michael encourages Mrs. T. to start getting some exercise by doing the household chores so that her heart can get stronger. “The stronger your heart is, the more energy you will have,” Michael tells Mrs. T. Michael also enlists several services for Mrs. T.: A home health aide will come to the house three times a week to help Mrs. T. bathe, and Meals-on-Wheels will bring her breakfast and lunch. Finally, Nurse Michael administers the influenza vaccine.
During Nurse Michael’s visit the following week, Mrs. T. is showing improvement. She tells Michael, “I just love that little girl who comes to help me; she is just so sweet. And the Meals-on-Wheels program is a blessing, I now have more energy to keep this place clean the way I like it.”
1. What challenges did Nurse Michael face in his first visit with Mrs. T. that public health nurses (PHNs) in the late 1800s also faced?
2. From your knowledge about the history of public health, compare an example of care displayed by nursing leaders of the past versus the current activities of Nurse Michael. For example, how was Nurse Michael’s nursing care similar to what Mary Breckinridge provided in the Frontier Nursing Service (FNS)?
3. How do the types of illnesses of Nurse Michael’s clients differ from the types of illnesses that were experienced by clients of PHNs in the early 1900s?
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