Title: WIC Nutritionist/Breastfeeding Coordinator
Department: Catawba County Public Health
Started Working with County: 2016
Share a little about what you do in WIC.
I am a WIC nutritionist. I'm also the breastfeeding coordinator, so I manage the breastfeeding portion of the WIC program. We have two breastfeeding peer counselors that I also manage, and they help with peer-to-peer support. I started as a WIC nutritionist, and when [the previous breastfeeding coordinator] retired, I stepped into that role as well.
What made you decide to work for Catawba County?
I've lived in Catawba County my whole life. I was working in another county and had a 30-minute commute every day, which is not terrible, but if there's something closer that's always nicer. I've been friends with [the former WIC program director] for a long time. She let me know that they were going to have a position vacancy and encouraged me to apply for it because she thought I would be a good fit.
Catawba County is so progressive and forward thinking. They're always thinking about how to improve and make things better. I was looking forward to coming into that kind of environment.
What does your work as a nutritionist involve?
We do nutrition assessments and counseling with pregnant women, breastfeeding women, and postpartum women, as well as infants and children up to the age of five. We assess where they are with their diet and provide education to help them make healthier food choices for themselves and their children. Nutrition in the early years really affects development and growth. It’s working one-on-one with those families and helping them reach the goals they would like to set for themselves and their families.
Share a little bit about your role managing the breastfeeding program.
As the breastfeeding coordinator, I help build partnerships with the hospitals and all of the doctors' offices in the area. My goal is to strengthen those partnerships to make sure we're all able to provide breastfeeding support to our citizens. I also provide education for all new incoming WIC staff. It doesn't matter if they're a processing assistant, or a nutritionist, or a supervisor, everybody gets the same breastfeeding education foundation when they first get hired on. Depending on what your role is, we may provide more specialized or specific training geared toward your job.
We also loan or rent out breast pumps to women who meet eligibility criteria. Part of my role is to track and inventory all of the pumps and make sure that we're getting them back in, they're functioning, and ordering new pumps and parts from the state.
As the breastfeeding peer counselor manager, I supervise the two breastfeeding peer counselors and make sure that they're continuing to offer professional peer-to-peer support. I want to make sure that we're providing good services and also representing Catawba County well.
What do you enjoy most about your job?
I really enjoy working with people. I like to meet people where they are at the beginning, watch them grow, and see them reach their goals and get excited about when they make healthier choices.
You have to meet where they are, and if they're not quite ready to make that change, then you’re there to say, "How can I help you today? How can I support you? What do you need? " Sometimes it's a quick, "Nothing. I just want my benefits, let me get out the door." Sometimes it's something bigger than just nutrition. They just need someone to listen to them at that point.
We wear multiple hats here, but I really enjoy working with patients. Our team at the WIC office is a great team. We all work really well together. I think we're really team-oriented. We always try to make sure that if somebody is struggling with something, and we're free or available, we jump in and try to help as much as we can.
With the work you do, just by its nature, you're helping make a difference in people's lives. Do you sense that in the work you do?
I think so. There’s definitely days that are harder than others sometimes. For me, it’s like when a mom is having trouble with latching her baby. We just work and work and work on it, and then, all of a sudden, it just clicks. The mom says, "Oh, my gosh, this wasn't happening at home. This has made a world of difference to me." Even if it's only one person I see that day who has that type of situation, that one victory is really, really special and really, really cool.
What do you most appreciate about working for the county?
I really appreciate how invested the county is in their employees. Coming from somewhere where that was not the case, it makes me want to stay and continue to grow and develop with the county. It’s really cool how progressive they are, always looking forward and changing things to make things better, not doing things just because we've always done it a certain way.
What makes you feel like the county's investing in you?
Well, definitely the benefits are really, really good. Here, at Public Health especially, we're all like a big family. It's not just a job. It's, "Hey, I'm going to work with my friends and my family today." They really support you no matter what you're going through at any point in time in your life. They're really focused on making sure that you're taken care of and that you're able to function in your job. If you're struggling, they're going to be there to support you and help get you through anything.
What is the “why” that drives you to do this work?
Honestly, it is just helping people. Knowing that we can make a difference in someone's life and help make that positive change for them, so they're able to continue to make healthy decisions in regards to feeding their children and feeding themselves. The biggest part is helping people and making sure they know we're here to support them. We are there to encourage them and give them confidence to make those healthy choices.
How has your work here helped advance your professional development?
I definitely didn't think I would be a manager at this point, because I still feel like a kid sometimes! I really just fell in love with breastfeeding as a nutritionist and working one-on-one with those breastfeeding moms. When [the previous breastfeeding coordinator] retired, they came to me and said, "We really think you would be a good fit for this position," and I stepped into that role. I really enjoy it.
If someone asked you if they should consider working for Catawba County, what would you tell them?
A thousand times yes. You will not regret it. I can say that without hesitation. A thousand times yes. I've only experienced working in Public Health and in the WIC office, but I've heard from other departments in the county that people just love working here, their department is great, and they love what they do. Like me, they feel that Catawba County really supports our employees. I really enjoy it.
Interviewed February 7, 2022