VNA program benefits parents

House calls part of nurse-family partnership

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— First-time parents have questions. Wanda Ely has answers.

Ely is one of two registered nurses who makes weekly and semi-monthly house calls to expecting and new parents in Northwest Colorado.

The Northwest Colorado Visiting Nurse Association sponsors Ely's visits to 20 families in Routt and Jackson counties.

A second registered nurse, Ann Irvin, makes house calls to 23 families in Moffat and Rio Blanco counties.

The VNA's nurse-family partnership means families like Tim and Jennie Fuhrer receive support and valuable information from pregnancy until their child's second birthday.

The Steamboat Springs couple is expecting their first child in February.

"The program is just good to keep your mind on the pregnancy," said Tim Fuhrer, 31. The soon-to-be father asks Ely plenty of questions when she visits.

With the help of diagrams, she explains how his unborn child is developing and what to expect as the infant grows within the womb.

Jennie Fuhrer, 32, has seen all the charts and graphs before. She works as an interpreter for Spanish-speaking couples in the partnership. But she still finds herself asking Ely about what to expect, she said.

"She answers all my millions of questions," she said.

Ely offers tips about nutrition and exercise and checks on preparations for the big day.

She gives advice about what to bring to the hospital and listens as the couple relates their visits to the doctor.

"It helps ease some of the stress," Tim Fuhrer said.

The VNA intends to partner with 50 families.

Marilyn Bouldin, director of the nurse-family partnership, said she is excited so many families have come on board with the program. When 50 families are reached, she said, the VNA would look at adding more families on a case-by-case basis.

The nurse-family partnership aims to promote healthy birth outcomes. Bouldin said she is pleased with the high number of normal birth weight and full-term babies.

While the program has been successful, some unanticipated challenges have evolved.

Several families that enrolled in the partnership have since moved from the area.

"The transient nature of our population has been a challenge," Bouldin said.

And full caseloads scattered across a four-county region keep Ely and Irvin on their toes.

Ely is usually on the road each day to visit families in Steamboat, Stagecoach, Oak Creek, Hayden and Walden.

A quarter of Ely's clients is Spanish-speaking and requires an interpreter like Fuhrer.

The nurse-family partnership program is in its second year in Northwest Colorado. Ely said she has seen not only healthy birth outcomes stem from the program since its establishment but also personal growth in the families she serves.

"I've been able to see some significant changes and growth in their lives and their babies lives," she said. "That's the special part to me."

She attributes the maturity and growth to the new parents but hopes her advice and materials have spurred some of the change.

Both Bouldin and Ely hope word about the partnership continues to spread.

"I think there's still some moms out there who aren't aware of the program," Ely said.

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