Profile: Melissa Smith

It’s in the genes.

That’s the explanation offered by Melissa Smith, RN, BSN, the Nurse Supervisor for the Nurse-Family Partnership at RVNAhealth, of her lifelong devotion to mothers and babies.

“If there’s a baby in the room, I just have to hold it. I remember being seven years old and having the same response, so maybe it is just genetic,” she joked.

As the leader of the Nurse-Family Partnership at RVNAhealth, which provides a dedicated nurse for low-income first-time mothers until their child reaches age two, Smith is excited to be broadening the nonprofit’s spectrum of care with a particularly vulnerable population. Many of the mothers served by the Nurse-Family Partnership are young and most have limited resources and support, a framework which their dedicated nurse helps build.  “When a baby is born, so is a mother,” Smith noted of the transformation that happens when a woman becomes a mother, particularly for the first time.

And Smith is no stranger to the business of new motherhood. A former labor and delivery nurse with nearly two decades’ experience, she transitioned to more intimate home-based care following the birth of her own children. “In labor and delivery, we know the moms for hours and days, but with a program like Nurse-Family Partnership, we are part of their lives for years. A special connection happens,” she said. One of the moms formerly in Smith’s care still sends pictures of her child’s milestones, attributing the support she received as paramount to her success as a mother.

Melissa Smith intended to become a pediatrician but in her junior year at Fairfield University switched to nursing so she could care not just for babies and children, but their mothers as well.  “I feel for moms, especially new moms” she said, “Motherhood can be completely overwhelming and is really hard. I wanted to make a positive impact during a really transformative time in life.” The Nurse-Family Partnership is a proven, evidence-based, national model of care that allows Smith and her team to focus completely on their patients. Funded by the Connecticut Office of Early Childhood, it strives to help first-time mothers build skills enabling both mother and baby to thrive during a crucial development time: during pregnancy and up to a child’s second birthday. The voluntary program has served over 300,000 mothers nationally and has piqued the interest of local midwives, in particular, so much so that the program is actively recruiting nurses. 

The Nurse-Family Partnership is a welcome addition to the RVNAhealth portfolio of care following the agency’s merger with New Milford Visiting Nurse & Hospice in the fall of 2020. Smith is excited about the transition and the “incredible support” offered by her new employer. “The enthusiasm for what we are doing starts at the top because Theresa supports our mission,” she said of the agency’s President and CEO, Theresa Santoro. “My colleagues are super. They couldn’t be more kind or supportive and I am really excited that we have a new angle of support for our communities,” she said.

A mother of three children ranging in age from four to fifteen, Smith knows firsthand the importance of supporting a new mom, particularly those who may not have a support system in place. Her family recently added a baby of their own, Luna, a black Labrador Retriever, and it’s reminding her of the exhaustion that comes with caring for a baby, even one with fur. “The crying, the teething, and the potty training. It’s exhausting and isn’t nearly as much work as a child,” she joked. Good thing there’s Nurse-Family Partnership at RVNAhealth.

Melissa Smith and Luna

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