Helping New Moms Achieve Success


Posted to Nursing, Nursing Jobs, Nursing News

Anatoliy Samara -

The Nurse-Family Partnership in Virginia assigns a nurse to visit low-income, first-time mothers at home every week, starting early in pregnancy and not ending until the child’s second birthday.

This article in the Virginian-Pilot followed nurse Glenda Asterilla-White as she visited a pregnant 24-year-old named Crystal Stewart in her home.

They discuss things like nutrition, what to expect from each doctor’s appointment, and the need to decrease caffeine intake.

The nurses in the program offer information about how to achieve a healthy pregnancy and also help the mothers prepare for the child. Then after the baby is born, they help offer guidance and information for successful parenting strategies.

Nurse-Family Partnerships have been shown to be extremely successful, when done right. (Especially, the more skilled the nurses, the better the outcomes.)

“This technique that they have really focused on in the Nurse-Family Partnership is intended to help the family be empowered rather than simply supplying them the information,” said Dr. Nancy Welch, acting director of the Western Tidewater Health District.

More than a dozen studies have documented the Nurse-Family Partnership’s impact over three decades.

Researchers say the program improves prenatal health, reduces the number of subsequent pregnancies for the mother, and increases the number of months she is employed. The children experience fewer injuries and are better prepared for starting school.

The program’s success comes from the trust that nurses inspire and the long-term bonding between the nurses and the mothers, said Lauren Baker, chief marketing and communication officer for the partnership.

The results impressed Welch, who also is the director of the Chesapeake Health District. In that capacity, she had evaluated a similar nurse home visiting program in Chesapeake.

Her conclusion: Over a five-year period, families supported by the Baby Care program had lower infant mortality rates, a smaller percentage of low-birth-weight babies and fewer premature births than families in a control group. If the program was expanded to cover all of the city’s premature births, it could save $1.34 million in hospital costs annually, a 129 percent return on the original investment, according to her estimates.

That analysis, along with the Nurse-Family Partnership studies, reinforced Welch’s conviction that home visiting programs work.

Some already existed in Western Tidewater, including one that focuses on parenting education and one for teens who are pregnant or parents.

When the national health law provided more money to the state for such programs, Welch applied for a grant. Relatively high poverty, dropout rates, unemployment rates and pre-term deliveries put Suffolk and Southampton County families at higher risk for unhealthy children, she wrote. Both localities could benefit from another home visiting program.

The health district was awarded a combined $450,000 from the government and Obici Healthcare Foundation. The grant allows five nurses to serve a total of 100 families for four years in Isle of Wight, Franklin, Suffolk and Southampton.

A nurse for more than 30 years, Asterilla-White decided to join the program for a new challenge and because she had been a teen mother herself.

“I’m getting a kick out of being able to make sure that the resources are known by the mothers and that I’m making a contribution,” she said.

Stuart signed up because she wanted as much support as she could get.

“It’s not like a business coming to you,” Stuart said. “It’s more like family.”