Noted Vincentian researcher  Sr. Louise Sullivan wrote an insightful monograph “Vincentian Mission in Health Care”. It has been out of print for some time but Sr. Louise and the copyright holders have given permission for its publication in the Vincentian Encyclopedia.

“Nursing care and hospital administration have evolved greatly since the first five Daughters of Charity gathered together in Louise de Marillac’s home on 27 November 1633 and began to bring food and medicine to the sick poor of the parishes of Paris. Nevertheless, the values inherent in the original works may well serve as an instructive model for contemporary health care reform efforts…

“Before examining this early service of the sick poor, it would be well to look more closely at the man and woman whose charism infused what was to become “Vincentian” health care…

“What is significant for us in this attitude of Vincent is the process of self-evaluation. He was never satisfied that a work of charity was the best it could be. He constantly examined it in the light of “experience” and sought to improve it. He had come to realize, after some four years of contact with her, that no one was better suited for the task than Louise de Marillac who now felt confident enough to emerge from her solitude and engage in personal charitable activity…

“Vincentian health care has reached a turning point. It will move beyond, but not away from, home nursing to general and specialized hospitals. Whatever the form, it will continue to demand close collaboration between men and women, laity and religious, rich and poor. And these collaborators will be united by their common vision of the service of God in the sick poor accomplished in a spirit of humility, simplicity, and charity.

The bulk of the monograph then develops to sections

  • General Hospitals:1634-1660
  • Specialized Health Services

Sr. Louise then distills the essential attirubtes of Vincentian Health Care.

“As one examines the Vincentian mission in health care during the lifetime of Vincent de Paul and Louise de Marillac, particularly after the founding of the Daughters of Charity in 1633, one cannot but be struck by its scope. It would be difficult to find a group in need of services excluded from their endeavors in the homes of the sick, hospitals, institutions for the elderly and the mentally ill, or on the battlefield. What were the essential attributes that they, and those who shared their mission, brought to this multifaceted service?

  • spiritually rooted – Vincentian health care recognizes the patient as a privileged place of encounter with God. Those involved in it form a “family of faith” which strives to serve the sick with cordial respect, compassion, and gentleness.
  • holistic – From its origin Vincentian health care has sought to serve the sick “corporally and spiritually” that is to minister to body, mind, and spirit.
  • integrated – Vincentian health care is patient focused, integrating all services, regardless of level, to provide comprehensive care and blending the humanistic with technical competence.
  • excellent – Vincentian health care places quality at the center of its mission. The health care providers must not only be competent but efficient and dedicated.
  • collaborative – By the gratuitousness of their patient centered service, those involved in Vincentian health care strive to be a bridge for unity in the multiple partnerships formed to insure better care for the sick. Vincentian health care seeks by such alliances to collaborate rather than to merely compete with other health care facilities.
  • flexible – Vincentian health care is ever ready to reach out beyond institutional walls to serve the sick where needed and to intervene in crises when necessary.
  • creative – Vincentian health care is ever seeking new or renewed ways to meet the changing needs of the sick while maintaining a clear “sense of the possible.”
  • focused – From its origin for the service of the “sick poor,” Vincentian health care has viewed a preferential option for the poor as central to its mission. It thus strives to integrate this vision into all aspects of its service and to keep the primacy of it alive among all those who share in their ministry of care of the sick.

She concludes

“In undertaking this project, the intention was to allow the essential attributes of Vincentian health care, as they appeared in the lived experiences of Vincent de Paul, Louise de Marillac, and the early Daughters of Charity, to emerge. The research conducted into the prototypal works of the Daughters of Charity in health care supports the major premise of this work namely that, despite the fact that treatment methods which proved successful in seventeenth-century France are now outmoded, the manner in which care was delivered and the qualities that characterized the service furnish an instructive model for subsequent eras. Medical practice has changed radically but the essential attributes of Vincentian health care remain for all who share the common vision of spiritually rooted quality care for the sick.

Outline of her presentation

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