On a J-PAL Site Visit: Pauline Shoemaker shares stories from South Carolina

We partnered with the South Carolina Department of Health and Human Services through our Health Care Delivery Initiative to evaluate their Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) program. Nurses with NFP regularly visit low-income, first-time mothers at their homes to provide support for both mothers and children from pregnancy until the child’s second birthday.

Last month, J-PAL North America research assistant Pauline Shoemaker traveled to South Carolina for an NFP site visit. We asked Pauline to share some insights from her trip.

Pauline Shoemaker, second from left, with the J-PAL North America NFP research and policy team.

Why are site visits valuable for you as a researcher?

When on site visits, I have the opportunity to explore health centers located throughout South Carolina. Each implementing agency differs greatly, but every staff I’ve met has been welcoming and engaged. I’ve had the genuine pleasure of sitting with nurses, listening to their stories, taking notes and providing technical assistance when needed. We often conjure the best ideas as a group on how to improve J-PAL’s systems during these sessions.

Tell us about an interesting experience you had with NFP.sc-paper-chain-crop

At one site, the site supervisor constructed a long looped paper chain to visually signify
each month’s enrollment target. When a nurse returns from her newest enrollment, she can detach a loop from the end of the paper chain to show everyone on site that they are one step closer to their enrollment goal.

I will also add that I have learned heaps about the various assessments for newborns, early child development, new motherhood, and more than I would have liked about the birth process in graphic clinical detail.

For those of us who don’t get to participate in an NFP training, what is it like?

This September marked our third training in Columbia, South Carolina! The J-PAL training is meant to teach nurses the skills necessary for the successful implementation of the study, as well as to provide a bigger picture understanding of why we evaluate. We normally start with stories of how the Pay for Success project came into existence through the collaboration and hard work of our partners. We like to explain the value of measuring impact in programs, and most importantly that the end goal for everyone is to improve health outcomes for vulnerable mothers in the state. Throughout the training, we guide nurses through the technical skills required to collect quality data by practicing on digital surveys and role playing informed consent. And of course, we always break for lunch.

What motivated you to become a research assistant on the NFP project?

I have a passion for understanding reproductive and maternal healthcare that I have been pursuing for the past several years through non-profits, individual research and now with J-PAL. It is tremendously interesting to see home visitation in practice, a Pay for Success contract up close, and policymakers at work—not to mention work with brilliant researchers on my team at Harvard and MIT.

Author: J-PAL North America

J-PAL North America seeks to reduce poverty by ensuring that policy is informed by scientific evidence. We do this through research, outreach, and training. We collaborate with decision-makers to generate clear, scientific evidence on which approaches work and why. We catalyze and support randomized evaluations, communicate evidence to help translate research into action, and build policymakers’ capacity to create and use evidence.

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