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Parkland nurses empower mothers to become confident parents


Irving, Texas. May 9, 2017

Jessica Herrera knows what it was like to be 19, pregnant and full of questions. But today, as a registered nurse with Parkland Health & Hospital System’s Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program, she spends her days allaying some of the same fears she experienced as an expectant first-time mom.

“It was hard being 19 with a newborn. I was scared and didn’t have anyone who could guide me along the way,” Herrera, who also has her BSN, said. “Now I can be that guide and mentor and provide answers to questions that everyone has but these young women don’t know who to ask.”
Like other healthcare organizations across the U.S., Parkland is celebrating the contributions of its nursing professionals during National Nurses Week May 6-12. More than 3,500 nurses are employed at Parkland, providing compassionate care and supporting patients and their families as they navigate their healthcare journeys.
The Nurse-Family Partnership is designed to transform the lives of vulnerable first-time moms and their babies. Through ongoing home visits from registered nurses at Parkland, low-income, first-time moms receive the care and support they need to promote healthy pregnancies and help mothers boost their babies’ brain development and language skills so they can be better prepared for school.
Eight Parkland registered nurses, half of whom are bilingual, conduct home visits with first-time moms from pregnancy until the child turns 2 years old. Depending on their stage of pregnancy or the child’s age, visits are conducted weekly, biweekly or once a month. Each nurse carries a caseload of approximately 25 clients. Prior to going in the field, nurses receive a month of preparation studying the program’s protocols before traveling to Denver for a week of in-depth training on how the program works, what they may encounter and how to handle certain situations. While building their case load, supervisors and colleagues are readily available to assist when needed. The program receives the majority of referrals from Parkland’s 10 Women’s Health Centers located throughout Dallas County.
Michelle Valdespino, RN, BSN likens her role in the Nurse-Family Partnership as that of a one-on-one version of the book, What to Expect While You’re Expecting.
“Little by little we go through all of the different phases of pregnancy and then what to expect after the baby comes home,” she said. “We discuss everything from labor and delivery to breastfeeding and what to eat to stay healthy. We also talk about the hormonal changes – the mood swings – that come before and after the baby is born. These are normal pregnancy changes, but we want to make sure mom and dad know what is taking place.”
For Stardette Furlough, RN, BSN, who has been with Parkland’s Nurse-Family Partnership for just over two years, the most rewarding experience is seeing the children grow up and develop.  
“I worked in a hospital nursery for several years and we’d see the babies when they were born and after two or three days they’d be discharged. Or, there would be a baby who was hospitalized and after they recovered, they went home and we never saw them again,” Furlough said. “Now I have the opportunity to impact the lives of newborn babies while watching them grow up.”
At a recent reunion of moms, toddlers and their nurses, several clients spoke of the special bond forged during their participation in the program.
“The program is very helpful for a first-time mom especially during all the different phases that you go through,” said Ariel Hornsby who attended the reunion with her 8-month old daughter, Leira. “It’s nice to have someone to talk to who understands what you’re going through and who can show you the ropes.”
Although the May delivery of his son will mark the arrival of Cleo Ingram’s third child, this is his first with his new love, Chalin Wright. Wright describes herself as an “older mom” who was filled with anxiety and almost didn’t stick with the program, but after an initial meeting with her nurse she immediately signed up.
“Stardette [Furlough] has been incredibly supportive. She’s told me not to be anxious and what I’m feeling is normal,” Wright said. “But as a first-time mom, I didn’t know what to expect or feel because it’s all new for me. It’s good to have that person who understands and can help you through it.”
The program has provided an added benefit for Ingram, too.
“It’s brought us closer together,” Ingram said of his partner Chalin. “We understand each other more and it’s given me the strength to be more supportive of her and her needs.”
“There are so many stories and positive outcomes from those who have enrolled in the program and stayed with it,” said Beverly Merritt, RN, MS, supervisor of Parkland’s Nurse-Family Partnership. “Dreams really do come true and you see it on the faces of the moms, dads and in the smiles of their babies.”
For more information on the Nurse-Family Partnership program, visit For information on services available at Parkland, please visit

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