Nurses partner with first-time mothers to improve pregnancy outcomes

Photo credit: Courtesy Photo

Joy Moton | Staff Writer

Nurse-Family Partnership is a program in which nurses visit the homes of pregnant first-time mothers to mentor and educate them.

The program originated 30 years ago in Denver, Colo. It was brought to Waco as a collaborative effort with the Waco Foundation five years ago with the hope that it would help grow and educate the community while breaking the cycle of poverty.

The program in Waco includes six nurses who visit the homes of 25 clients each week. The nurses provide resources to educate first-time mothers about how to take care of their baby as well as how to take care of themselves. The program lasts from the time a mother signs up until the baby turns 2. Nurse-Family Partnership serves to improve pregnancy outcomes, child health and parental efficiency.

“The most rewarding part of the program is when you have that young lady that has come from what we see as nothing to making herself into something,” said Shelli Ellis, the nurse supervisor.

The most challenging part of the job is accepting the reality that the nurses cannot fix all of the problems in clients’ lives according to Gabbie Worley, a nurse home visitor and Baylor Alum. With clients ranging from teenagers to college students to homeless young women, the nurses also find themselves helping clients through other difficulties in life such as substance abuse, family abuse and other issues that are beyond their control, Worley said.

“In many cases, we are their support system, they don’t have anyone else. So, I think that is a challenge for us to help them seek out other support,” Worley said.

According to Ellis, the nurses deal with the difficulty of their work by gathering weekly to talk out their frustrations and work together to find solutions. They also provide the mothers with community resources that direct them to other organizations within the Waco community that assist with problems beyond their control.

“Working with these ladies is incredible,” said Melonnie Pollard, director of women’s and children’s services at Baylor Scott & White Hillcrest. “They have very innovative ideas. They look for the best ways to meet the needs of their clients.”

The most rewarding part is seeing success stories and building relationships, Worley said.

“This program helps not only providing them with skills, but it also shows them that they can be successful, they can have a life, they can raise children and be successful with that,” Pollard said.

With six nurses currently serving nearly 130 clients in Nurse-Family Partnership, the program is always seeking volunteers to assist with events. Worley said she would encourage Baylor students to avoid the mistake she made in staying within the confines of campus.

“I missed out on opportunities to see what the world’s really like that would have been beneficial for me today,” Worley said.

She would urge students to get out of their comfort zone and explore the issues facing the Waco community.

“I think it could help shape what God wants you to do with your life,” Worley said. “Get out of the Baylor bubble and it will expand your world greatly.”