School of Nursing Grad Inspired by Care from Nurse-Family Partnership

en flag
es flag

Melinda Saunders-Wood’s path to becoming a St. Luke’s nurse began when she enrolled in St. Luke’s VNA Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) in 2016.

“My husband and I had an unplanned pregnancy with our first child, but a beautiful surprise,” explained Saunders-Wood, who will graduate from St. Luke’s School of Nursing on April 11. “As novice parents, NFP was there to help us as a family. They were an incredible resource in many ways.”

The Nurse-Family Partnership (NFP) is a voluntary, evidence-based home visitation program in which registered nurses visit low-income, at-risk mothers from early in pregnancy through the first two years of the child’s life to improve pregnancy outcomes, child health and development and families’ economic self-sufficiency.

Saunders-Wood, a 38-year-old Bethlehem mother of three, credits the education and advice she received from her NFP Nurse Home Visitor, which taught her a healthy path to motherhood and also opened doors for her at St. Luke’s. They also helped her create a plan to achieve her longtime dream of becoming a nurse, which dates back to her high-school years.

“NFP helped me understand what to expect during pregnancy, provided early childhood education and identified growth milestones with my child,” said Saunders-Wood. “Through this experience I quickly realized I wanted very much to work for St. Luke’s.”

She cites Stacy Huff, RN, BSN, a Nurse Home Visitor in the NFP, and her manager, Tina Wida MSN, RN, with fueling and supporting her passion to take care of women on their journey to motherhood.

She started on her professional road as a certified nurse aide at a nursing home and then at a local hospital. Then she came to St. Luke’s and worked in the Outpatient Lab as a phlebotomist.

Saunders-Wood “graduated” from the NFP program in 2018.

“At this time, I was completing pre-requisites to apply to the School of Nursing program,” she said. “My nursing education began in 2022, with three children ages 6, 4, and 2.”

She was accepted to the country’s longest operating nursing school, starting there in August of that year, and using the tuition reimbursement benefit St. Luke’s offers to employees. She has worked nights as a registrar in the St. Luke’s Anderson Emergency Department during her time at the School of Nursing.

“What I love about the School of Nursing are the culture, the support, the community and the people here,” she said with a smile.

She’s looking ahead to the vast career and learning opportunities she will have as a part of the world’s most trusted profession with the region’s most preferred health system.

Completing the rigorous requirements at the School of Nursing offers her the possibility to stay with the network that has grown to more than 20,000 employees who are inspired to provide high-quality, compassionate care to residents in the 11-county region they serve in Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

“I hope to work alongside the nurses in Labor and Delivery at St. Luke’s Anderson Campus who helped me deliver my babies,” she said. “My long-term goal is to further my education with an MSN in women’s health.”

“I’ll be forever grateful for the people and the programs at St. Luke’s that helped and inspired me to become the mother and future-nurse that I am today.”


About St. Luke’s

Founded in 1872, St. Luke’s University Health Network (SLUHN) is a fully integrated, regional, non-profit network of more than 20,000 employees providing services at 15 campuses and 300+ outpatient sites.  With annual net revenue of $3.4 billion, the Network’s service area includes 11 counties in two states: Lehigh, Northampton, Berks, Bucks, Carbon, Montgomery, Monroe, Schuylkill and Luzerne counties in Pennsylvania and Warren and Hunterdon counties in New Jersey. St. Luke’s hospitals operate the largest network of trauma centers in Pennsylvania, with the Bethlehem Campus being home to St. Luke’s Children’s Hospital.

Dedicated to advancing medical education, St. Luke’s is the preeminent teaching hospital in central-eastern Pennsylvania.  In partnership with Temple University, the Network established the Lehigh Valley’s first and only four-year medical school campus.  It also operates the nation’s longest continuously operating School of Nursing, established in 1884, and 45 fully accredited graduate medical educational programs with more than 400 residents and fellows. In 2022, St. Luke’s, a member of the Children’s Hospital Association, opened the Lehigh Valley’s first and only free-standing facility dedicated entirely to kids.

SLUHN is the only Lehigh Valley-based health care system to earn Medicare’s five-star ratings (the highest) for quality, efficiency and patient satisfaction.  It is both a Leapfrog Group and Healthgrades Top Hospital and a Newsweek World’s Best Hospital.  The Network’s flagship University Hospital has earned the 100 Top Major Teaching Hospital designation from Fortune/PINC AI 11 times total and eight years in a row, including in 2023 when it was identified as THE #4 TEACHING HOSPITAL IN THE COUNTRY.  In 2021, St. Luke’s was identified as one of the 15 Top Health Systems nationally.  Utilizing the Epic electronic medical record (EMR) system for both inpatient and outpatient services, the Network is a multi-year recipient of the Most Wired award recognizing the breadth of the SLUHN’s information technology applications such as telehealth, online scheduling and online pricing information.  The Network is also recognized as one of the state’s lowest cost providers.


Information provided to TVL by:
Sam Kennedy