Local Home Health Nurse Marks 50 Years in Nursing

Nursing has changed a great deal in the last 50 years — just ask Nancy Farwell, RN, who is employed by Penn Highlands Healthcare at Home in Performance Improvement. Nancy began her professional nursing career in 1973 when she was fresh out of nursing school at DuBois Hospital. Upon graduation as a registered nurse, she joined the hospital’s staff on the Medical/Surgical Floor.

“Back then, all of the nurses were female. Each of us was assigned six or seven patients of which we were responsible for their care for the day,” related Nancy. “The floor nurses not only provided post-surgery/procedure care; prep for tests, surgery and therapy; treatments; feeding and bathing; but we also transported patients to tests and to their cars for discharge along with cleaning the rooms so they were ready for the next patients.”

Nancy also said that everything has changed significantly over the years — from the nursing uniforms to the delivery and packaging of medications to the length of stay.

“Back in the 1970s and ‘80s, we wore white dresses and caps — not even slacks. Medications came to the floor for patients in loose bottles — they were not individually wrapped as they are today. Post-op patients — for any surgery — were guaranteed a six- to seven-day hospital stay while today people can have surgery and go home the same day.”

Nancy transitioned to home health nursing in the 1980s and soon discovered that it is her favorite type of nursing.

“Back when I started in home health, it was a new form of nursing care available to patients. We saw a lot of our patients three times a week for nine weeks,” she said. “Our patients were assigned to us according to our home location if possible. For patients who needed authorizations from their insurance companies for the visits, the nurses were required to obtain the authorizations.”

One of the most significant changes that Nancy has experienced as a home health nurse was the use of cell phones.

“At first, we were issued beepers and the on-call services would beep us if they had a message for us. Patients were also given our home phone numbers if they needed to reach us. Many times when I was out with a patient, other patients would call my home and my husband would take messages until I returned home. We eventually received cell phones but reception was never good so patients continued to call my home.”

Nancy very eloquently summed up her five decades in the nursing profession.

“While nursing has changed in the past 50 years, caring for patients has not. Nursing is the hardest job I have ever done, but one of the greatest satisfactions of my life!”

Nancy Farwell, RN, is shown early in her career wearing the former nurses uniform – white dress and cap.