About 18 hours after Meredith Lockhart had given birth to her first daughter at Naval Hospital Guam, the head of the labor and delivery department came in, not just to check on Meredith, but to offer her a job there.

“I had been working at a birthing clinic on Guam and had previously worked in a postpartum unit in another hospital,” Meredith explained. “When the folks at Naval Hospital Guam found out, they asked if I would work there. I told them I wasn’t ready to go back to work yet, but they said by the time I was ready, they would have finished the process of getting me hired, so it worked out!”

Initially Meredith had planned to work in medicine for animals—not people—and started college in a pre-veterinarian program. “I was always interested in medicine—my dad was a nurse and my mom was a ward clerk, but I had worked for a vet when I was in high school,” Meredith said. “Then I started thinking more about becoming an adult and how being a vet would impact my life, especially as a military dependent, since my fiancé was joining the Navy. I decided to look for a career that was more portable than being a vet and switching to nursing seemed like the best option. It was the best decision I ever made.”

Once she committed to nursing, however, Meredith decided she was not interested in labor and delivery (L&D). “L&D was the one specialty I kept asking not to do, so of course when I had an internship one summer, they absolutely assigned me there. I ended up enjoying it very much and realized my idea of what labor and delivery nursing would be like was all wrong. I didn’t think it would offer the most acute level of nursing. But I learned that in L&D you are your own ER, ICU, OR, and medical unit, and you get to provide a wide variety of care and become the expert in those skills for the pregnant patient. And there’s no other part of medicine where you take care of two people at one time. There was a whole different learning curve that I really appreciated.”

At Naval Hospital Guam, Meredith worked both as a L&D floor nurse and also ran a family care clinic for the hospital. “I saw all of the newborns for their two-day checkups. The pediatric clinic at the hospital was very busy, so to alleviate that I saw most of the newborns and reported to the care provider. I took care of them unless they needed to be seen by a doctor. I did weight checks, jaundice checks, and provided breastfeeding instruction. My work there was nearly identical to what NMCRS visiting nurses do. That’s also where I met a NMCRS visiting nurse, who I worked closely with. She supported the moms in their homes, but if they needed something else, she would send them to me at the clinic where I had a direct line of communication with pediatrics.”

After 18 years of working as a nurse, primarily with moms and babies, Meredith found herself in Rota, Spain, when her family PCS’d there. Military spouses are typically not able to get work in Rota due to the Status of Forces Agreement, so Meredith decided to volunteer as a Society visiting nurse. “When we were stationed at Camp Lejeune, a friend of mine volunteered with the Society and told me about it. We’d been a Navy family for nearly 20 years and knew about the Society, but it wasn’t at the forefront of my mind until I heard about it again in Spain.”

“I’ve been surprised by how much I enjoy going to people’s homes and helping them in that setting,” Meredith explained. “Home visits tell an entirely different story about the client. It makes me wish I had taken advantage of the visiting nurse program when I had my babies. When you’re in their homes you see what challenges they have to deal with, like a flight of stairs, or their furniture, or the stress they’re under.”

Based in an office that’s located in the naval hospital, Meredith has the opportunity to work closely with Navy physicians. “It’s a much more seamless process to help clients when you can walk down the hall and ask a doctor a question, or they can find you and ask if you can visit their patient at home. We have a high rate of referrals from physicians, which is a real benefit.”

“Some of my moms have toddlers but they’re still coming back and take part in our support groups. There are lots of moms who we’ve helped get through one of the most overwhelming times of their lives. I would tell them, ‘You’re doing good and you’ll see the other side.’ And now they’re on the other side and they’re supporting other moms, especially in a remote location like Rota, where you don’t have your mom or sister or best friend nearby, those people you naturally turn to as a new mother. NMCRS makes community support more visible.”

As a traditional visiting nurse, Meredith sees older clients as well as young parents. “We work with the retiree community here, going in to check their homes for safety issues and make sure they understand their medication instructions. Because they get some medications from a Spanish pharmacy and some on base, it’s easy, as a patient, to misunderstand or make mistakes. We also see what their living situation is like. Can they get groceries up the stairs into their apartments? Can they get in and out of their home safely?”

Meredith encourages other military spouses to volunteer, especially when they can’t find employment in a particular duty station. “It’s important for people to know, when you have a skill or profession you can’t use for work in a remote location, you can still use it to support your community. Even though I’m doing this work as a volunteer, it’s invaluable to me. This opportunity has allowed me to continue learning and working. If you have something to offer, look beyond what you might normally be doing with that skill.”

By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso

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