The most beautiful job in the world

Tea, a two-and-a-half-year-old girl nestled in her mother's arms, is saying goodbye to Ivanka, cheerfully waving and sending her kisses.

Ivana Miljkovic
Ivanka Djordjevic with Tea (2)
UNICEF Serbia/2017/Vas

30 October 2017

Ivanka Djordjevic is an experienced visiting nurse, who has just finished her visit to the Jovanovic family in Pirot, Serbia.

Tea, a two-and-a-half-year-old girl nestled in her mother's arms, is saying goodbye to Ivanka, cheerfully waving and sending her kisses.

The two of them have known each other since Tea was only 7 days old.

Visiting nurses, like Ivanka, are the only professional support for families that come into their homes; providing services in a family environment.

They ensure that mothers learn how to care for their babies in the first weeks of life: how to bathe them, change and breastfeed them.

Mothers learn that it’s important to talk to babies and to cuddle them, but parents also learn what to expect in terms of progress and how to recognise signs of illnesses.

Visiting nurses also monitor how mothers are coping as parents.

Visiting nurses, like Ivanka, are the only professional support for families that come into their homes; providing services in a family environment.

Ivanka made a regular visit to the Jovanovic family when Tea was three months old.

She was there to help the parents learn about nutrition and how to create a safe and stimulating environment for Tea.

However, Ivanka noticed something alarming when Sanja, Tea’s mother, lifted the baby from the floor - Tea's head kept tilting back.

It was a clear sign that the neck, shoulder and arm muscles were not strong enough.

Ivanka checked the age check-list and confirmed her fear.

She told the parents, as calmly as possible, that this was not a good sign and that Tea should urgently see a paediatrician.

Tea’s parents were stunned and frightened.

They heeded Ivanka’s advice and went to the paediatrician immediately who confirmed Ivanka's suspicions. He recommended exercises to help strengthen Tea’s weak muscles.

Tea playing with her parents
UNICEF Serbia/2017/Vas

Tea would have had problems both with her spine and with walking if it hadn't been noticed in time.

"Tea would have had problems both with her spine and with walking if it hadn't been noticed in time," believes Sanja today.

Fortunately, it was noticed in time.

Milos, the dad, was usually the one doing the prescribed exercises with Tea. Several months later, the motor skills delay was overcome.

Today, as a two-and-a-half-year-old, Tea is meeting her developmental milestones; her motor skills are completely developed.

She runs around the backyard with a ball, she climbs and descends stairs, but also makes a tower from wooden bricks using very sensitive movements.

"She is completely independent in kindergarten and at home. She uses her arms and legs and back completely. She jumps! There are no problems at all!" says Sanja proudly, gratefully looking at Ivanka.

Tea playing with toys
UNICEF Serbia/2017/Vas
Tea with her mother and visiting nurse Ivanka
UNICEF Serbia/2017/Vas

"She has the most difficult and most responsible job because she helps children start their lives healthy," says Sonja.

"And it’s the most beautiful job. There are moments when it's hard, when I see that children are neglected or suffering violence," concludes Ivanka.

Since 2014, with UNICEF’s support, vising nurses receive training and additional knowledge.

Now, in addition to providing care, nutrition advice and health care, they also monitor and stimulate the child's development, and help in the early identification of developmental and health risks.

In cooperation with health care workers and other institutions in the community, visiting nurses work to resolve those problems.

During the first three years of life they visit all new-borns and their families eight times, and more frequently, if needed.