As a long-time Navy wife, Susan McKelvey can definitely relate to her clients who are young moms, parenting solo while their husbands are deployed. Her own Navy husband, now retired, was a submariner. “I’m just giving them a friendly face and words of encouragement,” she explained. “I let them know there’s someone standing with them.”

McKelvey also feels a strong connection to retirees and widows, after being employed as a supportive home health nurse prior to joining the Society. “Right now I routinely visit a paraplegic Navy widow who lives at home on her own. I’ve visited her once a week for seven years. Every time, her face lights up and she says, ‘oh thank god you’re here.’ She’s a special lady and we have a special connection. For some retirees, having a visiting nurse come to their home allows many of them to stay in their homes. I’ve helped some retirees stay in their homes for years. You don’t get that kind of long-term satisfaction in regular nursing.”

Whoever the client, McKelvey is grateful for the opportunity to give back to the military community. “I had worked in oncology nursing in the hospital and home health since 1987,” she recalled. “When the Navy moved us to Groton, Connecticut, Martha Merz—the wife of the Sailor my husband relieved on the NR1 submarine—suggested I look into a job with the Society. I was a nurse and the Society needed a nurse in their Groton office so it was a perfect fit. I’ve been doing this since 2002.”

“I knew of the Society and we had donated for years, but I had never volunteered, and I really didn’t know everything the Society did. But now I love this job so much that we decided to retire here so I could stay in this job. It’s rare to be able to work and love your job as much as I do, so my husband has been very supportive.”

When she started as a Society visiting nurse, McKelvey had three small children at home so the part-time, weekday position fit her needs well. She had worked with elderly patients but had to learn the mother-baby side of the Society’s visiting nurse job, which excited her. “Now I’m also a lactation consultant so I do a lot of breastfeeding education, which makes a huge difference for our young moms. I give them emotional support and help them troubleshoot when things go wrong, which they do sometimes. It’s rewarding to help them meet their goals with their own health, with their babies, and with their families. Our primary mission is education so we’re helping them master their new role in life – being a mom. Sometimes women who have already had children will call too, if they’re having issues or problems or they’re new to the area and just want some support.”

Now that her kids are grown, McKelvey works full-time for the Society, covering Connecticut and Rhode Island. In addition to the clients, she loves her colleagues. “My office is wonderful. The staff and the director and all the volunteers are very welcoming and everyone gets along. It’s a different environment than a hospital or home health agency. It’s a very pleasant environment to work in.”

Long after she’s helped answer questions about newborns, McKelvey still keeps up with her clients. “I have so many moms who will Facebook me after they’ve moved away, even after their husbands are out of the Navy, and they want me to see how their kids are growing up. I love that.”

Congratulations, Susan, on 15 years of dedicated service to Sailors, Marines and their families!

Betsy Rosenblatt Rosso

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(1) Reader Comment

  1. Susan McKelvey has been such a light in the lives of many…thank you..thank you for your years of service!

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