Idell K Buchan was born in April 1887 in Manley NC in Moore County to Jonathan Edwards and Belle Buchan. She graduated from local schools and then from Flora McDonald College (a forerunner of current day St. Andres College). She next entered the nursing program at Biltmore Hospital in Asheville and became a Registered Nurse. Wanting to do the most good for the most people, she entered the field of public health nursing.
From 1919-1928 she worked as a “Special School Nurse” traveling across the state helping school children with problems related to growth, vision, hearing, chronic diseases, and dental issues.
From 1928-1937 she worked for the Currituck County Board of Education as a school nurse. From there she spent two years in Jackson County supervising nurses employed through the New Deal Works Project Administration during the Great Depression. She finished her career with NC State Board of Health working from 1943 until her death in 1947.
In addition to her work improving public health, she was active in many NC nursing organizations. She was the chairman of the public health section of the NC League of Nursing Education in the 1940s, she represented the American Red Cross on the NC Nursing Council for Defense during WWII and she was on the Board of Directors of the NC State Nurse Association from 1942-1944.
During the 1947 meeting of the NC Public Health Association the Nurses Section voted unanimously to start an emergency fund for nursing students in the School of Public Health at Chapel Hill in her honor. The press release announcing the fund noted: “No funds will be personally solicited for this memorial fund, but to friends of Miss Buchan who knew of her untiring efforts in promoting good health for the citizens of State and her interest in better education and preparation of young nurses, we offer the privilege of contributing to this fund.”