A New App is Helping Nurses Partner with First-Time Moms to Achieve Their Goals
The birth of a child can be an exciting, yet stressful, experience for many first-time moms, especially if they are living in poverty and lack the resources to provide proper care. For more than four generations, Nurse-Family Partnership® (NFP), a national community health organization, has linked specially trained nurses with first-time moms living in poverty and their children to regularly provide care and support starting early in the pregnancy and continuing up to the child’s second birthday.
“We like to think of ourselves as the emergency room of home visiting,” explained Benilda (Benny) Samuels, chief operating officer at Nurse-Family Partnership. “We focus on vulnerable families who are experiencing poverty, who might be at risk for homelessness or substance abuse. We know if they don’t receive support, they can be a higher risk for a difficult pregnancy, which can have implications for all of society.”
By tapping into the powerful bond between a nurse and a new mother, NFP has grown to serve over 38,000 moms in 41 states, the U.S. Virgin Islands and many tribal communities. Research has shown that over the years, the relationship between the NFP nurses and moms has been successful in improving both maternal health and birth outcomes. Now NFP is excited to be taking their mission to a new level by introducing Goal Mama, the first mobile app of its kind developed exclusively for Nurse-Family Partnership moms and their visiting nurses. The app provides easier access to the NFP community, informational articles and a tool to encourage goal setting, creating an opportunity to empower NFP’s new mothers and improve the impact of NFP.
“We wanted to create something that improved retention in our program and engagement with our mothers, and we knew an app was the best way to do that,” said Benny. “Not only is this an innovative platform for the nursing practice, but it also provides our young mothers with a tool right at their fingertips that helps them feel more supported, organized and understood.”
The Goal Mama app provides first-time mothers in the NFP network with a digital platform to set short- and long-term goals, including ways to track progress and set reminders to stay on track. Mothers can input personal goals varying from obtaining a baby’s immunizations, to applying for a GED; from getting a driver’s license, to scheduling a play date. Using a confidence scale, mothers can also indicate how difficult she believes the goal is and how confident she is in her success. Nurses can see updates and track goal progression in real-time on an accompanying nurse dashboard and can send the mothers personal messages of encouragement.
“Our nurses tell us a lot of this work can be two steps forward and three steps back, so by the mothers putting in their goals and ranking their confidence level in achieving that goal, it influences the way our nurses deliver advice and care,” said Benny.
As the app was developed, NFP worked closely with nurses and mothers to gain insights on how to make the platform succeed, which came down to meeting mothers and nurses where they are. Benny explained how, for many of the NFP nurses who come from community and public health backgrounds that often lack resources, introducing tech into their interactions with their patients has taken their work to the next level.
“I think what makes our app so different from other apps for new mothers is that ours was developed by nurses and mothers, for nurses and mothers,” said Benny. “Our young moms who are proficient in tech love the easy access on their phones, but nurses love how they are able to use the dashboard on their desktops.”
According to Benny, along with feedback from the mothers, nurses were imperative to the design of this platform. Together with their partners in developing the app, Hopelab and Ayogo, NFP gathered 100 of its nurses in a room for a design thinking exercise and were provided a tremendous amount of feedback.
“We knew if we wanted to get this platform right, we better ask nurses,” said Benny. “The dashboard element was the nurses’ idea because nurses do most of their administrative work on a computer, and nurses thought of the scheduling component because of how it’s often a struggle to match schedules. To know ideas from our nurses were actually implemented into the design of the platform is exciting.”
Kathy Pounds, RN, an NFP nurse at Gift of Life in Montgomery, Alabama, has been paired with first-time mother Kayla and her daughter Sidney for over two years. They both said they already had a great relationship but using the Goal Mama app has helped them better communicate and understand how Kayla can best achieve her goals.
“The app allows me to communicate with other mothers in the NFP community, so we can compare experiences and ask questions to each other. There’s also a section that I love with tips on how to manage one’s stress and anxiety,” said Kayla. “Being a new mom, and a single mom, it can be stressful, and you forget a lot of stuff. My daughter takes up a lot of my attention, so the app helps me to focus on my goals and the goals I have for my daughter.”
Kayla said one of the goals she entered into the app was to enroll her daughter in daycare. When Sidney was experiencing a language development delay, Kathy suggested that daycare could be helpful. Kayla not only entered enrolling daycare into the app as a goal, but also a suggested timeframe, her confidence in achieving the goal and what she needed to achieve the goal. The app regularly sent her reminders, and Kayla said it was incredibly helpful to have that additional support literally in her back pocket.
“This is the first time I’ve ever worked with something like this in my nursing career,” said Kathy. “Kayla is able to take ownership of our appointments and appointment times, and if she indicates in the app she’d like to discuss a specific topic, I know what information to bring on my next visit. It has completely transformed the way I deliver care.”
Before the app, if a new mom wanted specific information on a condition or development milestone, an NFP nurse like Kathy would either download the information and send it via email or print it out and bring to their next meeting. Now first-time NFP mothers have immediate access to the organization’s wisdom directly on the app in a growth and development section, which includes things to be on the lookout for as the child develops, a section both Kayla and Kathy say is incredibly helpful.
“I think my favorite part of using the app is the ability to send out quick, real-time updates, texts and affirmations that really build on the mom’s strengths,” said Kathy. “I want to show Kayla how strong and resilient she is, and the app allows me to regularly remind her of her incredible qualities and showcase why goal setting is important. I’ve seen her grow so much over the past few months by taking ownership of and reaching her goals.”
Since the launch of Goal Mama in May 2019, the platform has been introduced to more than 735 Nurse-Family Partnership nurses across 10 states. NFP looks forward to the app being shared with over 2,000 NFP nurses in their current 41 states by 2020. They also hope that by translating the app into Spanish, adding video and finding additional ways to innovate the platform, Goal Mama can help nurses and mothers, like Kathy and Kayla, develop deeper connections.
“I’m just so honored that Kayla has allowed me as a stranger into her home and to be such a large part of her life,” said Kathy. “NFP has given me the opportunity to watch mothers like Kayla bloom into successful, wonderful parents, and it’s been so rewarding as a nurse.”
Benny and the team at NFP hope that their experience developing Goal Mama can inspire other health organizations to pay closer attention to feedback from their end users, especially nurses.
“Developing Goal Mama using the perspectives of nurses and mothers has been transformational in how we are approaching other tools and projects at NFP,” said Benny. “And in the future, we know the tools we develop will be driven by nurses.”
(Pictured above is mother Kayla, her daughter Sidney, and Nurse Family Partnership nurse Kathy Pounds)
The app and dashboard were co-designed with Ayogo, a behavior-science based software developer, and Hopelab, a social innovation healthcare lab focused on developing science-based technologies that can improve health and wellbeing of teens and young adults. Following the success of Goal Mama, NFP recently awarded Hopelab with the Robert F. Hill Award for Exceptional Impact, which celebrates organizations who have made a momentous impact on Nurse-Family Partnership’s mission and vision to provide better opportunities for first-time mothers and their children.
Have an idea for an innovative platform with the potential to change human health? Stay tuned for upcoming opportunities to share your solution through the Johnson & Johnson Nurses Innovate QuickFire Challenge series.
 Nurse-Family Partnership. (2017). Better Pregnancy Outcomes - Nurse-Family Partnership. Retrieved from https://www.nursefamilypartnership.org/about/proven-results/1386-2/.