In year 1904, the Society that you know today as the Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) was incorporated by hand full of naval officers, their wives, and civilian friends, who saw a need for formal support in the Sailor and Marine-Corps community. The funds to support this community in 1904 initially came from the 1903 Army-Navy Football game. With just $9,500 its first year of support, the Society was a success and has only continued to grow from there.
By the early 1920s, the NMCRS organization took it a step further in seeing a trend within the active duty community seeking out medical support for their dependents. During this time, the military was not providing medical support to the dependents of active duty service members; the Society stepped in. Two years later, the NMCRS organization hired their first Visiting Nurse (VN), Nell Watson, for the Parris Island Branch Auxiliary. Today the NMCRS organization’s VN program provides specialized care to the communities they serve around the world.
The Visiting Nurse Program of Navy-Marine Corps Relief Society (NMCRS) organization provides specialized care to the communities they serve around the world. Founded on November 25, 1922, the program will celebrate its centennial anniversary, Nov. 25, 2022.
“The importance and need for the NMCRS Visiting Nurse program is indescribable,” said McKallah Blanton, NMCRS Rota director. “It’s a struggle for me to explain how under-utilized this program is to our community and the abilities this free program can offer. This program was established to fill in those present and future needs. I’m proud to be a part of this organization and humbled to work alongside such an amazing community of visiting nurses.”
Through the 100 years of its existence, the mission of the Visiting Nurse Program has remained: “to improve the quality of life for Navy and Marine Corps active duty, retirees, and family members by providing health education and resource referral to promote health maintenance and continuity of care.”
Rota’s NMCRS welcomes a new Visiting Nurse, Shannon Williams, who joins a small group of 25 Visiting Nurses around the world who are instrumental in the implementation to this program. She explains that the daily duties and programs vary by location.
“What is needed in Virginia Beach or Gulfport is not what is needed here,” she said. “We each have very specific needs, and each of the nurses adjust based on the community they serve.”
For Rota, Williams sees the greatest community needs as postpartum and perinatal support, which translates to home visits, educational classes, and support groups.
As a former Army spouse and mother of three, Williams can empathize with many of the challenges new mothers face while stationed in Rota such as deployed spouse, thousands of miles away from family, and limited support system. These are areas she hopes to “fill the gap” for the community.
While education and support groups will be an essential part of the program, Williams said approximately 80% of her time is designated for home visits. These visits allows for one-on-one patient care to supplement the care provided by the U.S. Naval Hospital and other base service providers.
“I can pick up on those things that can be easily missed or hidden,” said Williams of being able to enter the person’s home and get a greater, holistic understanding of the situation. “I think I will be able to pick up a lot of the slippage and that’s a beautiful thing.”
Pulling on her over 16 years of varied nursing experience, which includes working as a nurse with Veterans Affairs (VA) and at three overseas Women, Infant and Children (WIC) locations. Her most recent nursing job was with Covid-19 patients, which she admitted almost made her walk away from nursing.
“To come from the most depressing two years of my nursing career to helping moms with babies, helping new mom’s breastfeed, and helping postpartum mothers,” she said. “It has opened up a new window that I wasn’t expecting and I’m reinvigorated.”
Williams is thankful for this opportunity to meet an essential need for the community. When she moved to Rota, she was just looking for areas to give back to the community.
“I became a volunteer [with NMCRS] in March to help out because I wanted to do the Budget 4 Baby class,” said Williams. “I felt like I wasn’t going to work while I’m living in Spain so I’m going to insert myself somewhere where I can do some good and impart a little knowledge from my experience.”
Williams’s passion and enthusiasm for this new role will translate to a new level of support and care to members of the Rota community, and one she hopes to continue to grow and develop along with the community.
“I feel utterly and thoroughly privileged [for this position],” said Williams. The opportunity to do this for this community — and for these people — is honestly a dream.”