When clients no longer need her, April Pearson knows she’s done her job well. “I never get offended when I ask if they want me to make another visit and they say no,” she explained. “I know they’re sure of themselves and comfortable with their babies and I take that as the highest compliment.”
Pearson worked as a nurse for many years in oncology and home health before becoming a visiting nurse for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society. She started as a traditional visiting nurse in Camp Lejeune. “I have the best nursing job,” she said. “I enjoy my patients because I see them in a whole different atmosphere. I have time to sit down with them. I don’t have to rush. I don’t have a time limit. I get to focus on their problems and not just the issue they have at that moment.”
Primarily working with moms and newborns, Pearson is also a certified lactation consultant. She fills a critical need for many new moms who have no friends or family nearby to support them when they come home from the hospital. “Some moms move here and are delivering their babies three weeks later and don’t know a single soul in the area.” A Navy wife herself, Pearson teaches birthing and breastfeeding classes in the Great Lakes NMCRS office, and visits most of her class participants in their homes after their babies are born.
“If I can go to their house to check the baby’s weight or answer questions, it saves them a trip to the hospital,” Pearson explained. “In the Great Lakes area it’s cold and we have a lot of large families here. It’s hard to load five or six kids into the car to go to the baby’s checkup.”
One of the challenges in the Great Lakes office is that most moms deliver babies in a civilian hospital so they don’t always receive all the information about military benefits and services, including information about the Society’s visiting nurse program. “I love to watch a new mom come home from the hospital,” Pearson said. “She’s unsure of herself and unsure if her baby is getting enough to eat, and a few visits later you see her spread her wings and fly. I knew she had it in her and then I get to watch her blossom into a confident mom. She realizes ‘I know exactly what I’m doing and I’m going to be fine.’”
Pearson remembers that insecure feeling well from when her own daughter, now 13, was born. “My husband was on recruiting duty so we were not living near any military facility. I didn’t know about any local resources or anyone I could reach out to. I didn’t have any family support and I struggled with breastfeeding and mothering in general.”
Moms often call many months after giving birth when they have a new set of questions like how to start solid foods or what to do when they’re returning to work. Some moms who are new to the military simply have questions about how to navigate the military medical system. “If you build a relationship in the beginning, they’re more likely to call you when a problem arises,” Pearson said.
In addition to moms and little ones, Pearson also worked with elderly adults when she was at Camp Lejeune, and anticipates doing more with that population in the future. “You change as the needs of the base and community change. In 10 years I may have more elderly adults. You have to look and see what the needs are and be willing to change with it.”
“I see patients at their best because they’re more relaxed at home. They retain information better than they do in the hospital. I’m able to prevent so many issues. We have more time to sit down and educate our clients. I don’t think there’s any other nursing job in the world where you get to spend as much time as the patient needs, like Society Visiting Nurses do. We get to address the patient’s needs without having to worry about insurance companies.”