Long before anyone had heard of COVID-19 or George Floyd, well before the surging pandemic and the dramatic social justice demonstrations held the globe in their grip, the World Health Organization had named 2020 the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.
No one could have anticipated just how appropriate that commemoration would prove to be. As so many internet memes, driveway chalk drawings and yard signs proclaim, not all superheroes wear capes.
Across Minnesota, Nurse-Family Partnership nurses have continued throughout the pandemic and the Black Lives Matter protests to support first-time, low-income moms with telehealth visits providing nursing assistance and vital emotional support.
On the front lines
For nearly 20 years, NFP nurses in Minnesota have been quietly competent. Now, they are on the front lines, bringing their extraordinary interpersonal and professional skills to the sometimes-overwhelming challenges that have affected every Minnesotan.
Their superpower is trust.
NFP nurses work one-on-one with moms through pregnancy and the first two years of the child’s life. They develop relationships built on mutual respect and dedication to one goal: healthy families. These critical partnerships enable mothers and their nurses to work as a team to quickly address emotional, physical or developmental challenges that may arise.
During the difficult months of sheltering in place, NFP nurses provided iPhones to moms in need through a partnership with Verizon and Action Technologies Group. They enabled them to continue regular contact with moms, providing critical support through these often trying and anxiety-filled days when home visits aren’t possible.
Connection to services, coaching
In addition to the care they provide directly, NFP nurses connect moms with services that can help them cope in tough times. Access to public health and social services in parts of rural Minnesota is sparse and many families are not aware of how to find those that do exist.
The nurses also coach moms in the skills to advocate successfully for themselves and their children. They help them build confidence and competence.
Across the United States where NFP operates, more than 317,000 families have been served. Randomized control trials have found that the program reduces child abuse and neglect cases by 48 percent and cuts emergency room visits for accidents and poisonings by 56 percent. The presence of fathers in the household is increased by 46 percent in Nurse-Family Partnership families.
NFP benefits all of us by addressing homelessness, injustice, inequity and the myriad impacts of poverty, discrimination and lack of opportunity. It is supported through private donations and public funding, and every dollar spent on NFP saves a remarkable $5.70 for high-risk families.
In solidarity with Black Lives Matter movement
In a recent statement, Frank Daidone, president and CEO of Nurse-Family Partnership, said the organization stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement.
“At Nurse-Family Partnership, we see the detrimental and life-threatening impacts that structural racism has on the women in our program. When Black women are three times more likely to die in our country from pregnancy-related causes than white women, there is a real and urgent problem. This is a matter of public health. It is also a matter of equity and justice.”
I am proud to support Nurse-Family Partnership in Minnesota, and it has never been more important to support the work of an organization that is proven to end the cycle of poverty in vulnerable families and build strong communities. In celebrating the International Year of the Nurse and the Midwife, what better way to honor the heroes in our midst than to support an organization that gives Minnesota families what they need not just to survive, but to thrive.
Jim Welsch is co-chair of the Minnesota Nurse-Family Partnership Community Advisory Board, and lives in Minneapolis.
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