Frontier Nursing Service

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Directed by: Anne Lewis 1984 Running Time: 28:00 Color

Mary Breckinridge founded the Frontier Nursing Service in 1925 as a demonstration project of accessible, affordable, and competent health care for a rural population. Nurse-midwives came to Hyden, Kentucky and established outpost nursing centers that provided primary health care over 700 square miles of mountain terrain. The service grew and now operates a hospital with one of the few training programs for nurse-midwives in the country. In Frontier Nursing Service, comments by Betty Lester, one of the first nurse-midwives, are intercut with scenes from The Forgotten Frontier, a 1930 film about FNS which was made by Breckinridge's cousin, Mrs. Marvin Breckinridge Patterson. In this rarely-seen film, nurse-midwives race on horseback through the wooded hills to deliver babies, treat gunshot victims, and innoculate schoolchildren.


"A wonderful montage of actual footage and recent interviews....This video has been used in the Heritage of Nursing course but also has the potential to be part of Pediatrics, Nurse-Midwifery, Maternity, and Community Health Nursing curricula." -Angela Jacobi, Assistant Professor, Department of Maternal-Child Nursing, Rush University

"Outstanding! A most effective way to introduce the dynamics of the region, I use the program with every training session. A wonderful combination of old and new footage." -Mary Lee Daugherty, Director, Appalachian Ministries Educational Resource Center, Berea, Kentucky

"A delightful portrait of the Frontier Nursing Service as it was in its infancy...equally interesting is the pictorial history of the people and culture of rural eastern Kentucky during the early 20th century." -Now and Then Magazine

Screenings & Festivals

Kentucky Educational Television

Blue Ridge Public Television

WSWP/Beckley, WV


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