29 March 2010

A good thing

One of my favorite tasks as a Foreign Service medical officer is to mentor new-hire colleagues. This usually starts with an email from my director, asking if I am available to mentor a new employee, who is being posted to my region. I consider it an honor to be asked and a responsibility to be taken seriously. The purpose is to assist the practitioner in learning the Department of State administrative system, which, as you might imagine, is very different from a typical U.S. medical practice. Most of the mentoring occurs via e-mail or phone but may include a site visit as well.

My current mentee is posted to Kiev, Ukraine, and I recently made a site visit. My colleague is a young mother of two. Spousal employment can be a huge issue for many Foreign Service officers but this is a non-issue for my mentee, as her husband’s work can be done from home via the Internet. However, she is concerned about how overseas life might affect her children, since the lifestyle is so very different from growing up in the United States.

I brought my daughter overseas when she was 14, a terrible age to move a child from the known to the unknown, and we were fortunate it worked out so well. She had a personality that was open to exploration, and she was especially accepting of different cultures. Her first foreign school included a student body representing 34 countries. There is no doubt that it was a learning experience for her, far beyond the actual academic curriculum. Her senior year was spent boarding at a high school in Rome, and my concern that the year would not hold the wonderful memories usually attached to a senior year were unfounded. In fact, her dearest friends, eight years after graduation, are young women she formed a bond with in Rome and who have continued to be central relationships in her life.

I have tried to reassure my mentee that her children will most likely do just fine changing environments every two to three years. Not every Foreign Service child adapts and thrives, but the majority of them do. In fact, Foreign Service kids are some of the most adaptive and confident I’ve ever known. And, as my daughter will attest, the question, “Where are you from?” can make a Foreign Service kid the most interesting person in the room. That is usually a good thing.

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

1 comment:

  1. It's Friday, and that means that the Seventh Weekly State Department Blog Roundup is up - and you're on it!

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