Becoming a parent for the first time is a transformational experience. Our roles, relationships and priorities are quickly rearranged as our first child enters the world. Having the support of family and friends is important during this time, and in Centre County, help is also available through Home Nursing Agency’s Nurse-Family Partnership program.
Nurse-Family Partnership is a national, evidence-based program for first-time mothers that provides home visits by a registered nurse during pregnancy at no cost to the mother. The goals of the program are healthy pregnancy outcomes, healthy child development and a positive life-course development. During the visits, nurses bring information on topics that the mother chooses, which are discussed in a comfortable, conversational style.
“One of my favorite things about working in this program is that is it client-driven, allowing me to bring the information a woman wants,” said Tammy Hughes, a nurse who has worked in the program for 13 years. “One visit she may want to talk about breastfeeding; another about what life will be like after the baby comes.”
In addition to education, nurses also assess the mother’s health, including blood pressure checks and listening to the baby’s heartbeat.
Fortunately, the program doesn’t have to end with the baby’s delivery, as parents often have many questions during the postpartum period. Nursing visits can continue until age two, providing support through various stages of development, on a schedule of the mother’s choosing. Early in the baby’s life, visits might include weighing the baby or answering questions about feeding and sleep. Later, topics often include child development, ideas for play activities or understanding toddler behavior.
“I believe one thing that makes our program strong is the relationships we develop with families,” nurse Patricia Doty said. “We get to know each other very well during the two and half years we visit.”
A cornerstone of Nurse-Family Partnership is the extensive research conducted on the model over the past three decades. Randomized, controlled studies have shown consistent positive effects in several areas, including improved prenatal health, fewer childhood injuries and improved school readiness. In addition to demonstrated benefits, Nurse-Family Partnership has also been shown to be a cost-saving program in analyses by the Rand Corporation and the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation. Nurse-Family Partnership has served more than 27,000 families in Pennsylvania since 1999 and currently serves clients in 42 states. Home Nursing Agency, a not-for-profit provider of home healthcare, hospice and community based services, has been proud to provide the Nurse-Family Partnership program in Centre County since 2004.
Kim Bahnsen, MSN, RN, IBCLC, is a supervisor at Home Nursing Agency.