Every Day is Something New: A Story from Our Nurse Family Partnership Program

Amanda Devereaux describes herself as an ordinary person, but her job isn’t exactly typical.

“I think it’s always a good day if someone learns something new,” Devereaux says of her job as a registered nurse for EveryStep’s Nurse-Family Partnership program.

Devereaux began working with the organization in 2014, helping first time moms learn about pregnancy, birth, and raising a healthy child. She’s loved every minute on the job.

 “There’s other organizations that will do a home visit after you have a baby, but they aren’t going to see you for two years after and help you when they turn one and have tantrums.” Devereaux says of the two-year long NFP program.

As a mother of two young children – one with special needs – Devereaux understands the strains and stresses of new motherhood. Still, she’s ensured that her family and those that she serves take top priority.

She understands the important values that are needed to raise a family and notices how NFP displays those values also.

Nurses, like Devereaux, don’t turn away questions or people but rather seek them out. If they don’t know a way to solve a problem, then they make a referral to another organization or program that can help.

“That’s just the culture here. We all want to work together and help,” Devereaux said.

Two such programs aimed toward helping new and expecting mothers are Stork’s Nest and Emergency Pantry.

Stork’s Nest allows mothers to earn points for attending doctor’s appointments or classes offered through NFP and then later redeem those points for baby items such as car seats. By rewarding mothers in this way for making smart decisions for themselves and their baby, mothers are shown the benefits of doing what is best even though it may not be what is easy.

Emergency Pantry allows resources to be made available in dire situations. Devereaux shared a moment where she was especially thankful for having access to Emergency Pantry.

“[The] baby was sleeping in a crib, so I said oh, well that’s good. Check. But I asked to go see it and I’ve never seen a crib like this before,” she recalls, describing the crib as unstable and the mattress a pillow from the couch.  Sleeping on a mattress rather than a pillow is a preventative measure taken to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).

With the help of one of VNS of Iowa’s many interpreters, Devereaux was able to explain why the family should use a different crib for their child and had one delivered before she left the house.

“I couldn’t leave not knowing where the baby was going to stay,” Devereaux remembers. “I was really happy that she had VNS because we had the resources to get her that pack and play.”

In another case, Devereaux recalls sitting with a client who didn’t speak English and going through the woman’s mail.

“If the whole time I’m there trying to talk to them about how to have a healthy pregnancy and they’re thinking about this stack of mail they have that they can’t read and don’t know what it says, then my visit isn’t going to be effective,” Devereaux said.

While such a task may seem simple, it’s necessary and means the world to the people served by Devereaux and her colleagues at NFP.

“We offer compassion for clients. We aren’t judging anybody; we’re just here to help,” Devereaux said.

As of right now, most of the referrals for NFP come through Des Moines Public Schools, so the first-time mothers they help tend to be young. While the nurses love the clients they serve, they want others to know about their program also.

They are only serving a small percentage of the people who would be eligible for the program, and Devereaux is hoping family practice and OB/GYN offices will soon begin referring people at the same rate that the school nurses do. When that day comes, they will be welcoming more full-time and part-time registered nurses to their team.

If you’re a first-time mother looking for assistance, a volunteer searching to make a difference or a donor looking for your next great cause consider EveryStep