MaryAlice McCubbins, RN, MSN, TNS, CPNP, served in the U.S. Air Force for 22 years and retired as a lieutenant colonel. During her service, she always worked in pediatric nursing because where there is a military presence, there are military families, she says. As the mother of five adopted children and four stepchildren, she is a natural pediatric nurse. By combining her love of children and passion for nursing, McCubbins has been working in a dream job as a Washington University nurse practitioner in the department of surgery at St. Louis Children’s Hospital, where she works as a bridge between trauma patients and various inpatient and outpatient units throughout the hospital. In honor of EMS Week, From the Bedside focuses on one of the many caregivers who care for the patients EMS personnel see on the frontlines before bringing them to St. Louis Children’s Hospital.

I’ve always loved children, and after my husband and I married, we took on five foster children, whom we later adopted. My husband already had four children. Today, our oldest is 36 and our youngest is 19, and we have 12 grandchildren. Our adopted children were all emotionally challenged and faced deficits from neglect, but they’ve made it through.

Our oldest (adopted) son died six years ago. I believe this has helped me in my work with patients and families. I’ve lived their nightmare and on occasion can say I’ve been there before. Nobody prepares you for the loss of a child; there is no book, and it’s different in each case.

Trauma is just not something you plan for. I really hope to be that advocate for the patient and family who don’t know the questions to ask. The patients I work with have often been in terrible accidents, and not only are they shocked to be in the hospital, but so are their families. Their worlds are turned upside down. We have many families who are facing multiple challenges with their child in the hospital, and life is still happening around them.

My role at St. Louis Children’s Hospital is to follow patients from the ER to inpatient units, through rehabilitation and until they are home. I call myself the history keeper because many times after a child leaves the ER, the staff isn’t aware of what has happened once a child has left . I also do a follow-up when a child visits outpatient areas and sometimes after they’ve gone home. I’m lucky to see how kids are doing every step of the way and act as the bridge between the hospital and the patients and family.

I see so many different types of patients and many who face devastating injuries.  I recently had one family who was driving from Louisiana to Nebraska and was in an accident near Cape Girardeau. They were transferred here, and we had two kids in the ICU, two on another floor and one child in another room. The kids were fluent in English as was mom, but extended family members were not. We had so many services involved and tried to provide that bridge that connected everything. Those are the families I just love to wrap my arms around. Being able to bring kids to a kids’ hospital is the way to go, and I’m so proud to be a part of what we do here at St. Louis Children’s Hospital.