Nurse Johnee Nedrick takes Joy’s blood pressure during their appointment.
Sixteen-year-old Joy* confidently walks up to the Hopewell Health Department. She’s a patient at the HealthSpace Teen Clinic which runs Wednesdays from 2:00 to 5:00 PM in Hopewell and from 1:00 to 6:00 PM on Tuesdays and Thursdays in Petersburg.
“Most of my friends think that if you are going to the Health Department, you are going because you’ve caught something or something is wrong, but I go just to get checked out. I want them to see me walking out of the building because everyone should be going.”
Today, Joy has an appointment with Johnee Nedrick, RN to talk about her birth control options. The Teen Clinic offers everything from contraceptives to STD and pregnancy testing, but the part Nurse Nedrick really loves is the educational component.
“It’s fulfilling to know that you can influence change, that you can say something to a teenager, and they will listen. People say you can’t say anything to a teenager because they get their information from school and their friends, but when they believe you and trust you to be honest, it’s fulfilling to know I have such a big impact on a lot of the girls here.”
While the two of them sit in the office, Nurse Nedrick takes Joy’s blood pressure and hands her some literature. They talk about safe sex, how to properly use a condom, and the benefits of using a contraceptive along with barrier protection. What Joy isn’t necessarily aware of is that Nurse Nedrick is also looking for signs of unhealthy relationships and abuse. She’s looking beyond Joy’s physical health to her mental and emotional health as well.
Nurse Nedrick is just 23 years old. She grew up in Petersburg and actually went to the Teen Clinic, but she struggled to connect with the nurses and care providers who were much older than her. She wanted to come back to this clinic as a nurse so the girls would have someone to relate to.
Nurse Nedrick joined the HealthSpace Teen Clinic as a way to give back to her home town.
She wants to be someone the teens in the community can look up to, and inspire them to do even more than she’s doing.
“I knew I wanted to give back to the community. I wanted to be able to educate… I love my city, and I know it needs some help. It just needs a little push to succeed, and I want to be someone the girls in the community can look up to.”
With grant funding from John Randolph Foundation, the HealthSpace Teen Clinic and care providers like Johnee are making a difference. In fact, last year Petersburg had the lowest teen pregnancy rate in a decade.**
The result of this work goes beyond unwanted pregnancies. Just 40% of teen moms finish high school and less than two percent of those students finish college before the age of 30.*** Lowering the teen pregnancy rate improves graduation rates – helping to break the cycle of poverty in Hopewell and Petersburg.
Johnee knows this, and that’s exactly why she chose to work for the HealthSpace Teen Clinic. She hopes that her work there will increase the effects of this program in the area, but she also hopes to inspire the young men and women that come to see her, to give them hope beyond their circumstances.
“I want these girls to think, ‘If she’s just a regular girl from Petersburg who grew up on Halifax street and went to Petersburg High School then I can help too’…Me doing it alone doesn’t do much, but me with someone else – there’s more power behind it.”
*Her name and case details have been changed for confidentiality reasons.
** Petersburg Celebrates Lowest Teen Pregnancy in 10 Years. Virginia Department of Health. May 2016.
*** Teen Pregnancy and High School Dropout: What Communities Can Do to Address These Issues. The National Campaign. June 2012.
This post was written by Ann Easterling