I was excited to explore an entirely different area of nursing when my husband was stationed in southern Louisiana two years ago. Growing up a New Englander, I knew I was in for quite a culture shock. It just so happens that I landed the perfect job at a small home health agency in town. I was able to work days, no nights or weekends and I could be home in time to pick up my son from daycare.
After a few weeks of orientation I was given my first assignment. As I looked through the patients’ charts I felt quite comfortable with what my job was to be, how to care for the medical needs of these patients. Now, I would just have to actually find them. I hadn’t yet invested in a GPS (big mistake) and as I drove around town lost, I began to feel like this just might be too much for me. I had never even seen a ‘bayou’ before, now I was driving miles up and down the bayou searching for my patient’s home.
It is a very unique landscape down here, very flat and lots of water and bridges. There are beautiful birds and plenty of alligators. There are so many boats; fishing boats, tugboats, huge cargo ships that somehow manage to make their way miles up these narrow waterways. There are some gorgeous “Acadian style” homes and some homes that barely look livable. I have seen many blue roofs left over from hurricanes past. Down the bayou most houses are raised high in the air because of frequent flooding. I wondered how my 80 year old patient climbed up and down the steep stairs to get in and out of his house. Come to find out, most everyone has an elevator! It isn’t the kind of elevator you are thinking of. It is more like a small metal box on the outside of the house that fits one person and goes up and down. Pretty cool.
If you want to experience the true culture of an area work as a home health nurse. I have had the privilege to get to know the people of southern Louisiana in a way unlike any visitor and probably even more than some who have lived here their whole lives. These “Ragin’ Cajuns” are honestly the nicest people I have ever met. They have welcomed me in their homes and showed a genuine interest in me. I don’t know how many times I have heard, “We are so happy to have you here,” when they learned I was new to the area. It seems as if the people of this area have mastered the art of enjoying the simple things. I sure could learn a thing or two from the people down da bayou.
Being in home health, I have entered some homes that many would not believe. I have been in some really beautiful homes but the homes I enjoy the most are the ones you would least expect . No matter what the condition of the home I love that once inside I am able to look beyond the mess and just see my patient and be in the moment. What I have discovered is, often it is those with the least that teach me the most. Even though I am a total stranger to these people I have been shown so much love. It’s hard to describe.
How many nurses can say they have fed a wild alligator, was handed a hunting rifle and was serenaded by an Elvis impersonator all in a day’s work? Well, I can. I have also been kissed, hugged and fed. Of course there have been a few grumps and complainers along the way but honestly, very few.
I still love New England and always will, but as they say, “life sure is good on the bayou.”