Visiting Nurses Program brings healthcare to homes

17 Feb 2006 | Lance Cpl. Regina N. Ortiz

Since its beginning, the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society has been concerned with the lack of adequate medical care and facilities for the families of service members. Navy and Marine Corps families were not allowed to be treated by Naval hospitals because of laws that only an Act of Congress could change.

In 1922, the Parris Island, S.C., Navy Relief Society requested approval of a resident nurse to be hired and available to families to perform duties and make home visits. The idea was almost immediately approved and Nell Watson was hired as the first visiting nurse of the Visiting Nurses Program.

In its early years, the Visiting Nurse’s position was not held steadily at most bases and lacked documented organization. But since the 1950s, the program became more professional and developed standardization for the practices provided.

The duties of a visiting nurse were listed in the 1951 Manual for Auxiliaries:

• Follow-up visits as directed by the medical officer on patients discharged from the hospital to render services indicated by the Medical Officer
• Follow-up visits on patients confined to bed at home, as directed by the medical officer
• Home visits to mothers of newborn infants to assist and instruct them in carrying out the care and feeding of the babies (an example would be demonstration of a baby bath)
• Giving inoculations and vaccinations at the home of patients or at designated centers when not available or practical for patients to obtain them otherwise
• Transportation to dispensary or hospital for emergency cases when other transportation is not available

Fifty-five years later, the visiting nurses still have the same duties, and are only a call away, instead of requiring a recommendation from a medical officer, said Lisa Geduld, visiting nurse, Combat Center Navy Marine Corps Relief Society.

Geduld, a native of Hackensack, N.J., has been the Combat Center’s visiting nurse for more than 11 years.

The demographics of the area determine what kind of care the visiting nurse will provide, she explained.

“Here, at the Combat Center, we have a lot more young couples and first-time parents,” said Geduld. “I do a lot of home visits to weigh babies to ensure proper growth and development.”

Geduld also provides professional advice for diaper rash, teething, crying, skin care, sibling issues and safety-proofing the child’s environment. Geduld is available for quick referencing on any type of childcare, she said.

“Most people in the military, or married to a military member, are far away from their own families,” she explained. “It’s scary to have a sick child and have nowhere to turn to for questions.”

For Geduld, her role as a visiting nurse means much more than providing information. She is there to listen, she said.

“I’ve helped patients that have gone through a miscarriage or loss in their family and postpartum depression,” said Geduld. “I’ve been able to relate with most of them because of my own experiences as a mother.”

Geduld is used as a quick reference by most of the new parenting programs aboard the base. Through her own experiences and education, she is able to answer questions or knows where to look to find them, she said.

“I always stress education,” she said. “Times have changed and the more you know about current medical care, the better you can care for you and your family.”

Geduld is available to anyone associated with the military, whether they are on active duty, reserve duty, retired, or a family member or widow of a service member.

For the elderly, Geduld is available to deliver medications, do blood pressure assessments, and most regular nurses duties, she said.

“I look forward to coming to work everyday, knowing I’m going to touch at least one person,” she continued. “That’s the first reason anyone becomes a registered nurse, to help people.”

Headquarters Marine Corps