At the heart of Frontier Nursing University is a talented and diverse community of students, alumni, faculty, staff, Couriers and preceptors. Spotlight blogs feature members of our FNU community who are focused on the mission of educating nurse-midwives and nurse practitioners to deliver quality health care to underserved and rural populations.
In 1928, Mary Breckinridge, founder of Frontier Nursing University established the Courier Program, recruiting young people to work in the Kentucky Mountains and learn about service to humanity. Couriers escorted guests safely through remote terrain, delivered medical supplies to remote outpost clinics, and helped nurse-midwives during home visits and births. Frontier has benefited tremendously from the 1,600 Couriers who have served since 1928.
After three years of teaching in a rural community in Western New York (2000-2003) , Anna Carey decided to explore other opportunities. While teaching she had become interested in her students’ experiences outside of school that were affecting their experiences in the classroom. Through an organization that helps young people find unique volunteer opportunities, she heard about Frontier Nursing Service’s Courier Program. Anna thought it would be a great way to experience the many facets of rural life.
One of her first memories in Kentucky was getting lost while trying to find Wendover for the first time. This was pre-cell phone GPS days, and her paper map had a Daniel Boone Parkway with tollbooths indicated as the best main route into Hyden. However, all she could find was a Hal Rogers Parkway without tollbooths. Little did she know they were actually one and the same; the map just hadn’t caught up with the changes!
As a Courier in the fall of 2003, Anna participated in a wide range of activities. Some days were spent shadowing doctors and nurse practitioners as well as going on home health rounds. Other days were spent tutoring at the adult learning center and helping out at the local animal shelter. She helped serve meals at the Big House and attended Frontier Nursing Service luncheons in nearby cities.
Thinking of herself as an adaptable person, Anna felt confident that she could handle any cultural differences she encountered in Southeastern Kentucky. She was surprised how some things were just like many other places she had been in the United States, but others were like nothing she had ever encountered. The first few times someone mentioned a strip job (stripped off mountain top where coal has been removed), she wondered what the heck kind of jobs people had around here, equating “strip job” with people taking off their clothes for money! Additionally, it took her ears weeks to acclimate to the accents. She jokes that she eventually learned to just be quiet and pretend she knew what they were saying, which they were probably doing with her as well!
Anna was the only Courier during her stay so she spent quite a bit of time with the staff at Wendover, helping them with errands and any projects on the grounds or nearby clinics. She also spent time with them outside of work; they took her to festivals, four-wheel riding, church, elk-spotting, and out to dinner. According to Anna, the Courier Program truly was a great way to experience many aspects of life in a rural area.
Surprisingly to everyone—herself mostly—Anna decided to move to Leslie County after her three months as a Courier were up, and she has been living there ever since. Her ties to Frontier Nursing Service continued as she worked a few different times as a Coordinator of the Courier Program and also worked to help establish school-based clinics in partnership with Frontier’s own clinics. Since 2005 she has been heavily involved in a small non-profit organization called COLLY (County of Leslie Lifting Youth) that focuses on children’s health and education programs.
“I could have never imagined that first time getting lost in the mountains of Southeastern Kentucky in 2003 that it would actually be the beginning of me finding a new path for my life,” said Anna.
We are certainly glad it did!