Throughout its long history, the Courier Program has contributed to Frontier’s success. In an important sense, Couriers have always served as Frontier Nursing Service ambassadors. Couriers take the FNS message back to their communities in large part because Couriers experience the skilled, professional, compassionate care of FNS nurses and physicians in a personal way. Couriers’ specific tasks have varied according to the needs of the service, from grooming horses and holding a flashlight during births in the early years, to serving the local community in ways the busy nurses did not have time to do in later years. No matter the setting or the task, Couriers have been stalwart behind-the-scenes workers.
The Courier Service is completely interwoven into that of the Frontier Nursing Service. The FNS, one of the earliest organizations in the United States to combine nursing with midwifery and public health care, had a service area that was one of the most isolated and medically underserved areas of the southern United States, spanning over 1,000 square service miles and serving over 10,000 people. The Courier Program was created in 1928 mainly because the FNS needed assistance in a non-clinical capacity. In the early years, Couriers ferried supplies across rugged mountain terrain, cared for the FNS’s valuable transportation assets (the horses) and other animals, carried vital messages in an area without telephones or reliable mail service, transported sick patients, escorted FNS visitors, and completed mundane tasks that did not require the expertise of the highly trained nurses, whose time was far too valuable to spend on non-nursing chores.
Eventually, the FNS moved from riding horses to driving Jeeps, but the jobs for the Couriers remained largely the same. The 1980s, 90s, and 2000s saw a shift away from volunteer service that focused on carrying out manual chores necessary to keep the FNS operating and toward an outward community volunteerism focus. Much of this newer type of volunteerism reflected individual Courier preferences and the very specific needs of the community.
After a brief hiatus when the FNS closed, FNU took the Courier Program under its wings in 2013. Honoring the original mission, today’s couriers interface with the community through rural site placements and community agencies. These Couriers perform non-clinical tasks for rural clinics and lend a very needed hand to local organizations and nonprofits who are frequently doing more with less.