Monday, March 28, 2011

The speed bump that became a high spot

Friday was one of those days that will linger in my mind for quite awhile.

It was the end of a long week. Sick children, life stressors, work demands—all the typical things that pile up in the face of an approaching weeklong vacation. I thought I had the week pretty well planned in advance—a few days of “sick call” and a wide-open Friday afternoon to ensure a few quiet, patient-free hours to tie up loose ends before leaving the nurse in charge. (I hate leaving too much for my covering physician to deal with. He has his own daily demands and, as we all know, covering for another provider can destroy your week.)

Then, as only the military can do, a huge speed bump was put in the middle of my well-planned road! In response to the events occurring in Japan—the earthquake, the tsunami and, now, a nuclear threat—the military was offering voluntary evacuations to family members located in that country. The evacuees—mainly women and children—were being routed through various cities, and our location was chosen to support this mission. The request was for a provider to be on site at all times to provide acute care and address any medical concerns that might arise as the families were routed to final destinations elsewhere in the United States.

I scrambled to find someone to come to the house in the early morning hours and get the kids off to school. A few good friends have made the offer to “call anytime,” so I took one up on it, and he was quick to say yes. (Proof that the week wasn’t all that bad is that it reminded me of the wonderful friends I have made here in a short six months!)

When I arrived at the site, I was pleasantly surprised to see how organized the event was. The USO and Red Cross were there with food, hygiene items and a bank of computers and phones for the evacuees to utilize. The support staff had established play areas for the various aged children (everything from playpens to a bounce house to Wii) and staff to supervise them. They even had military members in place to walk the animals that were accompanying the families.

As the evacuees arrived, it was awesome to watch young soldiers, sailors and airmen assist the travel-weary women by carrying their baggage, pushing strollers and cleaning up after pets. The women were free to complete all the necessary paperwork and arrange their follow-on travel, knowing that everything else was covered, and the kids—and pets—were able to spend all their stored-up energy in a safe environment.

Except for treating some nausea and hypertension and handing out lots of Band-Aids, I provided very little patient care. In the course of the day, eight to 10 new moms and their babies came through—one just 6 days old—and I touched base with most of them to ensure they were doing OK and didn't need additional support. In general, I just watched and was so proud to be a part of this organization that sometimes can frustrate me to no end but, at the end of the day, can put together an operation to support our own that is second to none.

Although the evacuation initially added stress to an already stressful week, I am so glad I had the opportunity to assist in this massive undertaking, talk to these people, hear their stories and provide what little relief I could. It may have started as a road bump in my busy life, but it ended up being one of those experiences that will stick with me as a highlight of my time in the military.

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

The search continues

I am still looking for our “forever” house. My military friends will understand this.

We live in many places while serving our country. Most members of the military move every 3 to 4 years. We adapt to new communities, new cultures, new norms. Our kids adjust to new schools, new friends, new sports teams. And, through it all, we live in dorms or base housing, apartments or rental homes, and we occasionally purchase homes, usually knowing it is only for the duration of our relatively short stay in that community.

When we buy we look for something that will “do” for those few years, with a relatively short commute, safe in case we have to leave our spouse and children there alone during a deployment, something in which we can acquire some sweat equity, something with good resale potential.

Now, with a relatively short time remaining for me in the Air Force, I am considering the option of staying put in this community, allowing my hoodlums to finish high school with friends with whom they attend elementary school. The decision is tough but, when my retirement rolls around, they will be in middle school, a tough time in any child’s life and a tough time to start over.

So, we spend our weekends looking for “the one,” the house that won't just “do” for the duration of the assignment but maybe “forever” (or at least until the boy child finishes high school). We have found a few that are OK, that meet our basic needs. But we haven’t found anything yet that is on a quiet street, has enough beds and bathrooms to accommodate my parents’ frequent visits, has a backyard big enough for impromptu soccer games but not too much for me to keep mowed and a reasonable price that enables me to keep the kids in their current elementary school! Do you think I am asking too much?

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Simple pleasures

Today is one of those days I initially railed against when the school calendar was released. It’s a “non-contact” day, as they call it in this district, a day set aside for conferences but not a federal holiday. Thus, it’s a day I am forced to either take leave from work or enroll the kids in all-day care at the school. I chose this school for its quality before-and-after school care program as well as the all-day care it makes available on breaks. They do a ton of activities, and the kids have grown very attached to the staff members, but I feel that, if my children have a day off from school, they should get a day of freedom—a day to sleep in, watch bad TV before breakfast and maybe hit the skate park when the “big kids” are still in school.

So, I was frustrated that I would have to “burn” a day of leave to stay home with the kids. Now that the day has rolled around, I’m loving my break from clinic. I had a long day Monday, saw 25 patients in 3.5 hours of sick call, followed by my first experience of precepting an NP student.

So, today, I slept in and got in a workout before the kids woke up. Then, the best part of the day so far, my girl child delivered one of those notes we parents are so familiar with: “Dear Mom: Come downstairs and take a seat.” I honestly had no idea what to expect. A story request, maybe a “show” she had choreographed, a made-up play? What I found was a clean room with the bed made and her table pulled into the middle, all set for tea! We enjoyed a rare chance to just sit together and visit. We talked about her artwork that she has displayed in her room and about the colors she would like to paint her room, once we find that house.

So many days are spent running from activity to activity, task to task. We go to school and work, come home and complete homework, cook diner, and then hurry through showers so we have time to read before bed. This morning provided that rare opportunity to just sit and enjoy my girl’s company without worries about the day. So, my thanks to the school district for this wonderful opportunity to enjoy an unstructured day with my babies! And tomorrow? I have another of these “forced” days off, a day we’re looking forward to spending on the slopes with friends!

For Reflections on Nursing Leadership (RNL), published by the Honor Society of Nursing, Sigma Theta Tau International.