A Story from Our Care & Support Services Programs: Amanda Redhead

Amanda Redhead has applied her nursing skills to a variety of different positions throughout her career, but her favorite job happens to be the most challenging one.

Redhead, a Community Home Visitation Nurse for EveryStep, describes her job as an even ratio of social work and nursing; a combination she never experienced when working in the hospital setting.

“I’ve had a range of nursing jobs, everything from OB [obstetrics] nursing, literally being the first hands that hold a baby, to [being] a hospice nurse, I’ve been the last hands that have held a human life,” says Redhead, who has been with EveryStep for eight years, but a community home visitation nurse for five. “In this job, every day when I leave, I know that I’m making more of a difference than I made in any other job in my career.”

The Community Home Visitation program, one of more than 30 programs offered by EveryStep, is available to pregnant and parenting women in Polk County. Some of the provided services include child development screening, prenatal health education, depression screenings and family planning counseling.

Redhead’s clientele is comprised of a diverse group of pregnant women and new mothers. Some clients are refugees and immigrants, some are local Iowans, but they’re all bound by the reality of living within high-risk circumstances.

Redhead’s job is to provide these individuals with the support they need to keep them on their feet, whether that means connecting them to medical professionals or food pantries or simply treating them with dignity and respect in basic health care.

For non-English speaking clients, EveryStep employs interpreters – covering 21 different languages and dialects – who go on home visits with nurses like Redhead to help foster communication.

In certain cases, Redhead notes, there is an additional level of complexity layered just beneath the surface of the existing poverty.

“It’s very shocking, what happens behind closed doors. And many of these people, when we’re walking in and there’s hidden drug use or domestic violence or any of the other things that we’ve seen, often these people look very normal outside their home,” Redhead said. “So there’s something sacred about them inviting me into their home to be able to see them at their absolute worst.”

EveryStep works closely with the Department of Human Services in these circumstances, especially when young children are involved. Redhead’s role in her home visits is very much intertwined with her personal role as a mother. With three children of her own, she is hypersensitive to the situations of the young children she works with.

The high emotional toll of Redhead’s position, however, can affect her personal well-being. She’s experienced things that, she says, “nearly brought me to my knees.” She notes that not many people can last in this job, but if one wishes to pursue it, there are certain things to keep in mind.

“You’re going to have to be willing to take on self-care as part of the job,” Redhead said. “Be willing to do the things you tell your patients to do. Take a break and get therapy and journal and do yoga and all the things that people might roll their eyes at. It’ll keep you sane.”

This isn’t to say her coping mechanisms are perfect. Redhead noted she will sometimes allow herself to park in an empty parking lot and “have a cry” before she goes home to be with her family.

Redhead also learned to lean on the support of her teammates at EveryStep.

“Working for a nonprofit, you make far less than you would if [you] would work at the hospital,” Redhead said. “And for many of us, we’re working more hours than we were before just to make sure everybody’s getting what they need. So I think that shows you on a very simple, concrete level how passionate we are about what we do.”

No matter the family’s situation, Redhead and the team at EveryStep seeks to uphold the organization’s values of treating each client with dignity, respect and compassion.

“All of us, as a society, should be in charge of everyone’s children, and we should want to make the world a better place for everyone,” Redhead said. “It’s all of our responsibility.”

Thanks in part to staff members like Amanda Redhead, EveryStep was recently named as a Des Moines Register Top Workplace for 2018. If you would like to join the EveryStep team visit our career website to learn about job opportunities.

This story is an edited excerpt of a piece written by Drake University student Hallie O'Neill.