HELPING THE COMMUNITY
Hilton Head nurse Amber Adkins was no stranger to juggling her busy family schedule. With an active duty Marine husband, a 12-year-old son and twin 9-year-old girls, family life required organization and effort, a task that she gladly embraced.
However, the last year of life during a global pandemic and a job change to the frontlines of Hilton Head Hospital’s emergency room have proved both a challenge and a joy.
While studying to become a nurse, Adkins wanted to be in the ER. As she wrapped up her schooling, the position available to her in Ohio was on an inpatient trauma unit with plans to bridge her into the emergency room after a year. But the young family moved back to South Carolina without completing her goal of further training.
The desire to be in a fast-paced, triage environment stayed in the back of her mind, even through working as a clinical nursing instructor and home health nurse. She wanted to increase her knowledge and skill set, but settled into her jobs while getting her children acclimated to their new home and educational environment.
When the pandemic hit, Adkins stayed home to assist her children in online school, creating a safe space while everyone’s world seemed turned upside down. Her children enjoyed the time with her at home, but she knew she needed to get back to work and do her share to help her community. She found an opportunity to get back into the hospital and it just happened to be in the emergency room.
She was happy to be directly in the fight against the pandemic.
“I felt better being back in the hospital,” Adkins said. “I felt like I was doing what I needed to do. I was new to the ER and didn’t have any experience. It was tough. I needed to adjust and adapt, and things have certainly gotten easier.”
COVID-19 made her position in the hospital more important, but also more of a concern. Adkins struggled with the desire to stay home and protect her family and the desire to help her colleagues.
“There is a very real fear of exposing my children and husband, bringing it home. But I had a need to be there with my fellow nurses,” she said.
After schools opened and her children returned to the classroom, Adkins still worried about missing the days with her children. The family struggled a bit with the nights that she worked late, and the kids were in bed before she returned home.
She was able to get on a day shift that allowed everyone to get on a routine. She found that staying on a schedule helped her children adjust.
“I work three days a week,” Adkins said. “Those are still very long, but my kids know what to expect. They’re at that age where they’re getting somewhat self-sufficient. They come home from school and know what’s expected of them. They can take care of their own lunches. They can take care of their homework, with little guidance from us. My husband does a great job helping with them.”
The family recently took a vacation to the mountains, traveling to a small town in North Carolina. The cabin they rented allowed them to spend safe time together while being out in the natural beauty of the area. The simple vacation was a reset for everyone and highlighted the need for stress relief. Adkins has also started exercising to stay on top of her health, mentally and physically.
“I know as a nurse it should be a priority,” she said. “I’ve being doing well, (exercising) three to four times a week, and that seems to help my mental health tremendously.”
As a mom, Adkins has moved her children through many changes that could be tough to navigate in a normal environment. Her advice for success applies in all circumstances: take time together, try to alleviate stress and manage your schedule.
PHOTOS BY RUTHE RITTERBECK