Friday, May 18, 2012

The Power of Nursing to Change Lives . . . Jefferson County Nurse Family Partnership Program

Jefferson County Public Health’s (JCPH) nurse home visitor, Val Carberry and her client, Rita Erickson, were spotlighted in a NY Times online opinion article, “The Power of Nursing” on May 16, 2012. The article conveys the enormous return on investment of this federally funded program, estimated at $5.70 in benefits to society for every dollar spent. It also clearly points out the power of the NFP Partners for Healthy Partners Program in Jefferson County, Colorado to change people’s lives dramatically and positively forever.

Public Health Nurse, Val Carberry has been a nurse for 28 years and has worked with more than 150 mothers in the JCPH Nurse Family Partnership Partners for Healthy Families Program. “When a woman becomes pregnant whether she’s 14 or 40, there’s this window of opportunity, they want to do what’s right. They want to change bad behaviors, tobacco, alcohol, using a seat belt, anything. As nurses, we’re able to come in and become part of their lives at that point in time. It’s a golden moment. But you have to be persistent. And you have to be open and nonjudgmental.”
Jefferson County Nurse Family Partnership's Val Carberry
interacts with infant

The article also describes a relationship between a public health nurse and a young mother and how the support of that relationship gave hope and encouragement to change, to adopt healthy behaviors and to create a new life. It is the type of story, JCPH’s nurses, nutritionists and other employees who work every day with Jefferson County’s populations know well. It is the type of story behind so many of public health’s interactions with the public we serve. In a very real sense these types of successes, accomplishments, support and partnerships are what public health is all about.

The following is excerpted from the Power of Nursing article:

“Consider the relationship between Rita Erickson and Valerie Carberry. Rita had had a methadone addiction for 12 years and was living from place to place in Lakewood, Colo. She found out she was pregnant; a parole officer told her about NFP. “I’d burned bridges with my family,” Rita told me. “I was running around with the wrong people. I didn’t have anyone I could ask about being pregnant.” In the early months, Valerie had to chase her around town, Rita recalled. “I was worried she might say, ‘This is too much hassle. Come back when you have your act together.’ But she stuck with me.”

Over the next two years, they embarked on a journey together. “I had a zillion questions,” Rita recalled. “I was really nervous at first. I had lived most of my adult life as a drug addict. I didn’t know how to take care of myself.” On visits, they discussed everything: prenatal care, nutrition, exercise, delivery options. After Rita’s daughter, Danika, was born, they focused on things like how to recognize feeding and disengagement cues, remembering to sleep when the baby sleeps, how to manage child care so Rita could go back to school. For Rita, what made the biggest impression was hearing about how a baby’s brain develops — how vital it was to talk and read a lot to Danika, and to use “love and logic” so she develops empathy. Once Valerie explained that when babies are touching their hands, they’re discovering that they have two. “To me that was really amazing,” Rita said.

This month, Rita is graduating from Red Rocks Community College with an associate degree in business administration. She’s going to transfer to Regis University to do a bachelors degree. Her faculty selected her as outstanding graduate based on leadership and academic achievement — and she was asked to lead the graduation procession and give one of the commencement speeches. Danika is thriving, Rita said. Recently, she came home from preschool and announced: “Mommy, I didn’t have a good day at school today because I made some bad decisions and you wouldn’t be proud of me.” (She had pushed another child on the playground.) As for the NFP, Rita says that it helped her recover from her own bad decisions. When Valerie came along, she needed help badly. “I didn’t care about my life. I didn’t care about anything. I never ever thought I would have ended up where I am today.”

For more information:

Jefferson County Public Health: NFP Partners for Healthy Families Program

Nurse Family Partnership:

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