Over the past 30 years Carolyn Burton has worked as a visiting nurse for the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society, her compassion remains constant, but some of the circumstances have changed.

“I see clients from all age groups a lot of folks like myself—baby boomers who are at retirement age.” Burton receives frequent requests from hospital staff members to make home visits to patients who are leaving the hospital, to teach fall prevention. Burton also gets requests for home safety evaluations, aimed at both older clients and new parents, to ensure their homes are free of hazards that might endanger those who are aging or very young. “Recently, I visited a home and noticed that the knobs on the gas stove turned on if you accidentally brushed up against them. That’s a danger for toddlers who are right at the height of the stove, and for older people who might have visual deficits and not notice when they touch the knobs.”

Another issue common to households with younger and older members is medication safety. For families with babies and young kids—or even curious teenagers—medication needs to be safely secured and out of reach. For older people, it’s critical that medication is clearly labeled and measured out so they take the right dose of the right medication at the right time.

However, infants and their moms make up most of Carolyn’s client roster. She provides newborn and post-partum visits, answers the same questions new mothers have been asking for decades, and offers reassurance and a calming presence. “The biggest change I’ve seen is that, because they now have access to the internet, new parents are much more prepared. Now, they have questions about something they’ve read online,” Carolyn explained. She’s also seen advances in medications that enable women with a history of depression to continue their medication during pregnancy. Recent training in suicide risk awareness and prevention is helping Carolyn more effectively help her increasing number of clients with PTSD and depression. “Fortunately, the VA is more involved with treating PTSD and depression, and there are many more counseling centers and in-home counseling available than there used to be.”

“Many more single active duty Sailors and Marines are staying in the military,” she observed. “Years ago, if you were pregnant and single you were out of the military, but that’s different now.” Today, the military provides more support for single parent service members and those who are breastfeeding, as well as more maternity and paternity leave. “They’re recognizing the value of family, which is a good thing,” Carolyn said.

Last year, Carolyn was visited by a client whom she had helped with breastfeeding years in the 90’s, and that child was now 20 years old and in college. “It’s a joy for me to see that I helped someone get off to a good start,” she said.

“Nursing is just part of who I am,” Carolyn explained. “I still enjoy what I do. I felt like it’s a gift to be a people person and get to talk with people about whatever they need. When I was a military wife, working for the Society as a visiting nurse helped me so much with my young sons. It was a great job, especially when my husband was deployed. My job hasn’t gotten boring. It’s still a joy.”

Congratulations, Carolyn, on 30 years of dedication to the Society and thank you for your service!

By Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso

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