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Handbook Handy in Afghanistan


After a 7,000-mile journey, Laurel Stocks hadn’t expected to find much that reminded her of home. Last May, the Air Force reservist had been transplanted from her job as a clinical nurse specialist on the surgical and burn intensive care units at Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center for a four-month deployment to Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. At the 40-bed, Level II trauma center there, she was assigned to the four-bed children’s unit. To her surprise, she found two copies of Hopkins’ Harriet Lane Handbook, the indispensable pediatric text that was first published 55 years ago.

Stocks, who is also a pediatric advanced life support instructor, is no stranger to the handbook. She had borrowed a copy from her mother, a pediatrician in Louisville, Ky., years ago as a young nurse.

“The best thing about the Harriet Lane is it’s got everything in one little package—labs, drugs, how to take care of respiratory issues,” she says. “At the bedside, you don’t have time for a whole course. You just need to know, hey, this kid isn’t tolerating a ventilator. What could be some of the issues that I’m not thinking about because I’m used to taking care of adults?”

At the hospital in Bagram, “we photocopied the main pages [of the handbook] about the heart rates and the blood pressure and made a big poster for our pediatric room,” Stocks relates. She felt supported not only by the information inside the handbook, but also by her co-workers back home. “They sent me stuff all the time—stuffed animals, clothes, shoes, school supplies, snacks—that we were able to share with the children,” she says.

Teaching was another positive part of her experience in Afghanistan. “Because our clinicians were from all over the Air Force and had different kinds of experience, those of us with pediatric experience had to mentor everybody else.” That included training nurses and physicians from Afghanistan as well.

“They’ve been practicing primary care, but now, if they’re able to build hospitals and to get machinery like ventilators, they’ll be able to do more complicated surgeries and have intensive care.”

—Mary Ellen Miller



Johns Hopkins Medicine

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