Joanne Schmidt, Family Public Health Nurse, Local 436
Most of my time is spent in the field visiting our clients, with a day to do paperwork in the office. They live all over the city, in shelters, in Riker’s Island or they live with foster families.
I work with first-time mothers. They can be anywhere from as young as 12 years old to 41-year-old women.
I help them with developing their parenting skills and give them orientation regarding lactation support. I make a lot of referrals on their behalf for social and mental health services at clinics. We make a lot of referrals to the Coalition for the Homeless.
There’s really no typical person that I deal with. Their main concern is finding permanent housing, then finding a job.
A lot of them are interested in continuing their education but that takes a back seat to finding a job and a place to stay — those are the priorities. Sometimes the situation is desperate. They can feel hopeless and don’t see a way out.
Sometimes I’ll take out my old Medicaid card and ask them what it is. Of course they know what it is. It helps to start a conversation. I was a teenage mother so I know what it’s like. I had to sleep in my car when I was younger.
I graduated in May from the Family Nurse Practitioner master’s program at New York University. Now I’m studying for my doctorate at Yale University. I’m doing research on workplace violence against nurses.
We’re making a big difference in the lives of these women. When they complete their GED or when they finally get their first job, it’s
—As told to Alfredo Alvarado