Alma Saravia was 19 years old, recently married and pregnant with her first child when the call came.
It was Patricia Aguillen, or “Nurse Patty,” as she’s known to the many moms she’s helped over the years. Aguillen, a registered nurse, introduced herself and invited the teenager to take part in University Health System’s Nurse-Family Partnership.
That call began an almost three-year relationship which included regular home visits through pregnancy and the first two years of her son Edward’s life, with Saravia receiving guidance, information and emotional support.
“She really wanted to be a good mom,” said Aguillen, who has worked with some 150 moms in her nine years with the program.
“It helps any first-time mom,” Saravia added. “You’re never ready to be a parent. We had just gotten married and were going through those bumps in the road, trying to learn to live with each other — and getting pregnant right away. It was difficult.”
The evidence-based community health program includes home visits every two weeks. Nurses educate new moms on prenatal care, infant care, child development, nutrition, parenting skills and the importance of planning future pregnancies.
The goals of the program are to:
•Improve pregnancy outcomes by helping women engage in good preventive health practices, including thorough prenatal care, better diets, and ending the use of cigarettes and other harmful substances.
•Improve child health and development by helping parents provide responsible and competent care.
•Improve the economic self-sufficiency of the family by helping parents develop a vision for their own future, plan future pregnancies, continue their education, and find work.
Funding for the program is provided by the State of Texas’ Health and Human Services Commission.
Today, Saravia’s son Edward is a healthy 7-year-old. She marvels at the lessons she learned from Nurse Patty. “I learned that I was baby’s first teacher,” she said. “And by teaching him, I gained my baby’s trust. That’s the most important thing for an infant, gaining their trust. I learned about positive discipline. You’re the parent. Your child is going to do what you do.”
When she began the program, Saravia was taking prerequisite courses to become a nurse. She became a licensed vocational nurse and joined University Health System in 2015. She later returned to school and earned her bachelor’s degree, becoming a registered nurse in December 2017.
With that accomplishment behind her, she now works with mothers and babies in University Hospital’s NICU and newborn nursery.
“I feel a connection to these moms — especially the young moms,” she said.