I Chose Virtual Medicine for all the Wrong Reasons.
By Holly Erwin, LVN, IBLC, virtual lactation consultation at Cook Children's
As far back as I can remember, I had one wish for my life:
To be a mom.
I truly picked the path of nursing for the single purpose that I knew I could pay my bills as a single parent, if I ever had to.
My first nursing job was terrible. I was the doctor’s 8th nurse to hire/ fire that year. “Fire” was the word he used, however, most nurses walked out at lunch and never came back. It was close to my home, and it was all that I knew at the time, so I cried my way through it for 8 months.
One day, while sitting at Sonic on my lunch break and crying my eyes out, a girl that I had gone to nursing school with called about a position at her work… an hour away.
I went to interview, and secretly hoped that I would hate it, because I just couldn’t imagine doing the drive-- but I didn’t.
I loved it
My boss was wonderful and I joined a team of the most amazing doctors and nurses around.
I worked full time until I had my first child and then transitioned to a part time position at our night clinic.
While in labor with my second child, I got a phone call that we were shutting down our after-hours urgent care but the doctors offered me the same hours, all as a triage nurse, working 100 percent from home.
It was the greatest blessing to my family.
So good, in fact, that I often pointed out the hard parts to other nurses so that they wouldn’t try and take my job!
Not that it didn’t have its down sides too… dinner, baths and homework time fell within my busiest part of the night, and most holidays you could find me tucked into a spare bedroom calling parents back, as I worked when the office closed.
But I could earn a paycheck, and be a mom, usually at the same time —and often times did from the car at soccer practice, or while packing lunches for the next day.
When Cook bought out our office, my triage services were no longer needed.
At this point, my kids were 4 and 7 and I couldn’t stand the thought of driving over an hour one way to work in the office again, but honestly, couldn’t make the money I did, finding work near home.
Breastfeeding has always been close to my heart and I had become the unofficial breastfeeding advisor in our office since having my first child, so this particular time in my life, it made sense to advance my education and gain the credentials to support my passion.
The physicians were supportive and hired me to work in office for them, 3 days a week, as a lactation consultant.
As thankful as I was to them for the new position, I still found myself looking through Indeed for the word “remote” often.
I desperately wanted to be back home.
At this point I was driving 7 hours a week and working 18. I had a third baby and unmeasurable mom guilt, putting him in daycare at 6 weeks, but less than him staying in the care of others all day bothering me, the fact that I was a hour from any of them if they needed me, haunted me.
And then I got wind of a new telemedicine position for lactation.
For six months I stalked its process, prayed relentlessly, and in May, I accepted the position.
If I am honest, everything exciting about the position change revolved around me, what I wanted, and how it bettered my family’s quality of life.
I was going to be back home.
Frankly, I expected it to be a lesser quality of care, but I justified that part by reminding myself that this platform would give opportunity to a group of people that otherwise wouldn’t have sought help.
Which was the category that I fell in while nursing—
As well as most breastfeeding moms that I knew in the real world.
But my ideas on telemedicine were wrong.
It is true; I do get to support mothers who wouldn’t have reached out otherwise.
Our fees are extremely reasonable, so aside from the typically group of moms with true issues seeking lactation advice, I am able to help the middle of the road group too… the moms who have more questions than can fit in their allotted appointment slot, or the ones that are actually doing perfect but need constant reassurance.
But more importantly, I realized that the level of care that I can provide has not waivered due to this platform for any mom, or any issue that she has.
Which is incredible!
Every day I am able to “coach” parents through the most difficult days of motherhood.
I am able to do it just as well, and sometimes better than I could in person, because no one is in a rush to get out of the room.
We can chat, I can answer questions, and even have the ability to watch them feed, when needed.
I can’t physically hold their hands anymore, but the virtual experience had no change on the metaphoric hand holding, I can assure you.
Because telemedicine is not only new to me, but a new adventure all together, it is constantly evolving and becoming more.
I get to work for people who say, “sure”, “let’s do it”, “why not” and “it doesn’t hurt to try”, before the word “no” every comes out.
I love my job and am thrilled to be here.
I joke that it is like dating again, because every day is exciting, and as crazy as it is to say, I honestly look forward to Mondays.
But to come full circle, and reiterate the reasons why I wanted to be where I am at:
My baby started walking yesterday…
And I didn’t miss it.