Roaming Through Virginia with the Public Health Nurse

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Rural health nursing has long been considered a subspecialty within public health nursing, albeit one that required the nurse to be a generalist. In the excerpts of this article, Webb (1920) shares her observations as a State Supervising Nurse for the Red Cross in Virginia while traveling in rural areas of the state with the county public health nurses. Themes evident in these excerpts include the transportation issues associated with working in remote areas, as well as nursing work in the areas of maternal and child health, communicable diseases, case finding through health inspections, and health education. Additionally, there are themes specific to rural nursing, including distance and isolation, self-reliance, and development of trust among the rural population. In her 1922 book, The Evolution of Public Health Nursing, Annie M. Brainard identified many of these themes when she stated the ideal rural public health nurse needed to be a “school nurse, baby nurse, tuberculosis nurse, and a general visiting nurse”, as well as tactful in dealing with “country people” who are “peculiarly independent and sensitive” (1985 edition, p. 303).