Prior to Grenfell’s arrival, the region relied on occasional doctors sent north by the Newfoundland government, as well as basic medical services provide by the Moravian Mission. The medical missionary vowed to help “the unhappy souls that were imprisoned in ice for half the year, and cursed with privation and sickness always.”
He developed a network of regional hospitals and nursing stations staffed by highly qualified doctors and nurses from around the world.
Nursing stations were often staffed by nurses alone, who often had to deal with medical emergencies without physicians being present. It was routine for the Grenfell Mission nurses to pull teeth, sew up wounds, save animals, and deliver many, many babies. They also travelled long distances by dog sled, boat, on foot, and, later, by airplane, to see their patients.