Guest Post: A day in the life of a Healthy Start program

FDOH -- St. Johns staff Elaine Mathews (L) and Karen Watts (R) with former Coalition Associate Executive Director Loreli Rogers.
FDOH — St. Johns staff Elaine Mathews (L) and Karen Watts (R) with former Coalition Associate Executive Director Loreli Rogers.

This blog post was written by Karen Watts, RN, Senior Program Manager with the Florida Department of Health — St. Johns Healthy Start program for National Infant Mortality Awareness Month. 

FDOH — St. Johns is one of eight contractors providing direct Healthy Start services in Northeast Florida to pregnant women, infants and children up to three years old. 

As a member of the Healthy Start team in St. Johns County, I am privileged to work with some amazing people that share a common goal….

Helping members of our community have healthy pregnancies, healthy babies and healthy children.  As the senior program manager, my day mostly consists of behind the scenes work to support the real public health heroes… the nurses and family support workers who see clients directly, helping them to achieve their goals.


So, what does it take to be a successful care coordinator in St. John’s County?   First of all, it takes great organizational and time management skills!  An average day includes 5 – 8 home visits, although our nurses have seen up to a dozen in one day.  In addition to the face-to-face visits, there are usually  another six or so telephone encounters to keep everyone up to speed and in the loop.

Prior to meeting with the client, the care coordinator reviews the plan of care and previous visit notes, identifying any gaps in resources, and preparing an education plan. Education materials are then collected for each client and the day is mapped out.

Some days the home visits are not in the home at all. Last month, one of our nurses, Cara Seifart, had the incredible experience of completing eight encounters in the community in one day. She started at Starbucks near a client’s place of work, and then moved to a community park to meet with twins. Next, she traveled down the coast to a Farmer’s Market in St. Augustine and then met her next client at Butler Beach for a walk. After lunch, she met a mom-to-be at Target to help pick out a maternity bra and talk about baby products. Her last two appointments were at Dunkin Donuts in St. Augustine and finally another community park for the last appointment of the day.

Life can be exciting managing cases for our moms and babies in St. Johns County. This is one position where we truly meet our clients where they need to be met. Together, we make a difference every day in someone’s life, and I’m proud to be a member of the team!