An "Ode" to the Public Health Nursing Bag

This summer I am taking NUR 403, aka, Public Health Nursing (PHN) Clinical. I think it will be an interesting clinical, since it allows me to be very independent. I get to schedule my own home visits with clients & see them when it works best for them & me, & there isn’t a lot of paperwork involved. There is a downside, however. Enter the Public Health Nursing Bag!When Chris saw this in the trunk of the car, he was like, “What the hey?!” Oh yes, I get to carry this antiquated lump of leather around with me on my home visits. I think it has been around since the 1940s – OK, maybe not that long, but at least the 60s. The bag is made of leather & has all sorts of dividers inside, along with rusty snaps & buckles that are about to fall off. Take a look:Why do we have to carry these bags? Because the head of PHN at Purdue loves them. No, seriously. She actually wrote a research article about them, entitled Use of the Public Health Nursing Bag Reexamined, & it was published in none other than the journal “Public Health Nursing”! Good grief. In this article, she contends that use of the PHN bag is still a useful, contemporary teaching technique (the article was written in 1987, of course, but who’s counting?)

As proof of how old-fashioned these bags are, I offer the following picture, taken of a Public Health Nurse in NYC in the 1890s. Does the bag look familiar?
Still unconvinced? Let me show you a close-up:I rest my case. The only difference is that my bag looks to be in worse shape!

It probably goes without saying that on these home visits, I’ll be going into some bad areas of town (yes, Lafayette does have a dark side). So all of us students were read some of the safety guidelines for the course, including this one about the PHN bag, which we all found pretty amusing: “If you are robbed, do not resist the assailant’s attempt to take your public health nursing bag. It is replaceable.” Well, thank goodness for that! I know that the first thing on my mind, should I be accosted on the streets, is to protect the PHN bag at all costs!! I can just see it, some poor, hapless nursing student is being held at knife-point, & when the guy tries to get the bag, she yells, “No! Not the Nursing Bag! Anything but that!” 🙂 Actually, these bags could be used as a pretty hefty cudgel should I need to whack someone upside the head. I think they weigh close to 15 lbs…

I will say that it is nice to have a bag to carry all of our supplies. But I think it’s time for the School of Nursing to spring for some new ones, wouldn’t you agree?

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3 thoughts on “An "Ode" to the Public Health Nursing Bag

  1. go for the area which challenges you the most, then you won’t be bored, always learning and always on your toes!

  2. I think Doc Baker carried a bag like that in “Little House on the Prairie.” Ha! I agree that they should spring for some new bags, perhaps even offering a choice of colors? One can hope…

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