By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso
She might receive a text from a new mom with a picture of a baby’s rash and the question, “Is this normal?” or spend two hours talking with a mom whose husband has just deployed, leaving her to solo parent a newborn for the foreseeable future. She’s even been asked to clip an infant’s tiny toenails and fingernails because his mom is too nervous to do it for the first time. It’s all just part of Lindsey Potts-Szoke’s routine work as visiting nurse at NMCRS Whidbey Island.
Potts-Szoke became a volunteer with and proponent of the Society years before she took on the role of visiting nurse, beginning at NMCRS Jacksonville in 2012. Her active duty husband was in flight school at the time, and she was working full-time as a critical care nurse in a hospital, but her three shifts a week still left her with time on her hands. “I learned about the Society at student spouse information night and started volunteering,” she recalled. “I fell in love with it, and as a very young military spouse I learned 90% of what I learned about the military from my time at the NMCRS office.” Potts-Szoke started as a client services assistant, became client services assistant lead, and then served as chair of volunteers during her three-and-a-half years in Jacksonville, Florida. Those experiences help her as a visiting nurse. “When I’ve been on visits and a patient mentions the family is struggling financially, I can refer them back to the NMCRS office for help,” she said.
When her husband received orders to NAS Whidbey Island, Potts-Szoke learned the visiting nurse position at NMCRS Whidbey Island was becoming available and she applied. “Before we moved from Jacksonville, when I knew I had been hired for the position at NMCRS Whidbey Island, Sandra Jackson—a long-time visiting nurse at NMCRS Jacksonville—took me under her wing, brought me on home visits with her, and made me do practice baby assessments with baby dolls. She trained me and helped me learn the Society’s visiting nurse record-keeping software program, Nightingale. Then, when I arrived in Washington, visiting nurse Cathy Burdick—who works out of NMCRS Everett—drove up and spent a few days making home visits with me.”
While her duties include visiting other traditional clients such as widows/widowers, so far, all of Potts-Szoke’s clients have been moms and babies. “The Whidbey Island Naval Hospital is small and they do have a labor and delivery department—but I’ve been pretty busy. It’s a small island and apparently the winters are pretty dreary so people have a lot of babies.”
Because of the gray and drizzly weather, it’s also tempting for new moms to stay home and become isolated, so Potts-Szoke makes sure her clients know about the variety of activities, playgroups, and classes available on the island for parents and children. “It helps for parents, especially if their significant other is deployed, to get them out and doing things – instead of sitting at home by themselves. It’s great to get them socializing with other families whose kids are the same age—good for the moms and the babies.”
Mother-baby visits range from an hour or 90 minutes, for a first-time appointment, to 15-30 minutes for a typical follow-up. “Weight checks and breastfeeding help are definitely the top two things moms need,” Potts-Szoke said. But she also gets texts and emails with quick questions that don’t require a face-to-face visit. “Especially if it’s their first baby and they don’t have family nearby to help, they’re just nervous about everything. Most people want someone to assure them they’re not failing at parenting and remind them that every new parent is scared. And if they want me to sit there and talk for two hours, I can sit there and talk. That’s the beauty of this job. Every person I’ve seen has been so nice and so appreciative and welcoming. I love this job.”