My top tips for next time you're wearing that nurse's hat

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Deb Russo is a FIFO wife of the offshore kind. Her husband works on oil rigs and vessels. Typically, he does a four-week-on and four-week-off roster. They've lived their entire 14-year relationship like this. Initially Deb's husband was in the Navy, then he shifted to work in the mines and did the 28/7 roster (Deb's least favourite!) With this offshore roster, though, she wouldn’t change a thing.

As I’m writing this I have my ear to the phone, organising the handover of real estate agents because the old agency failed and I’m hiring a new one.

Today I'm wearing my admin hat. Yesterday I was wearing my paramedic hat as I ferried my nine-year-old son to the hospital after he face planted himself into a skateboarding cement bowl. For the past two weeks I have been wearing my nurse's hat (along with all the other hats I wear) after swine flu invaded our house and took down the nine-year-old who took down himself yesterday.

I am a woman who doesn’t mind the odd hat, so it's only fitting that this month’s column is about dealing with sick kids when your partner works FIFO. If you have to wear a nurse’s hat, might as well wear it to the best of your ability!

  • Always have the med basics of Phenergen, Nurofen and Panadol on hand (or equivalent). For babies I used suppository Panadol (not nice but when they can’t keep it down it's faster and more effective). Panadol is good for pain, Nurofen great for inflammation {not great for tummy bugs} and Phenergan is great for everything from bee stings and nausea to helping kids sleep.
  • Always have hydrolyte on hand. Always! My kids love the frozen ones and I give them one if it’s been a really hot day. Use this instead of sports drinks and the old wives' tale of flat lemonade. Buy them from a chemist. 
  • Buy a hospital 10ml syringe to squirt medicines down the throat in one go instead of numerous attempts with a 5ml syringe or spoon. You can get these at the chemist for about $1.50. Administer only as directed and often by weight, not age.
  • Have a sick kit ready like you have a first aid kit that includes towels, baby wipes, disinfectant wipes for wiping down hands, bacterial wipes, your meds and syringes and a stainless steel bowl. Keep the meds out of the reach of little hands, of course.
  • Make up the bed with a flannelette mattress protector and towels. Easy washing and the flannelette is better should they have high temps. It’s also less noisy than a plastic protector, which is annoying when you're sick.
  • Prepare healthy frozen meals, because the last thing you want to do is cook for the other kids.
  • Start yourself on Inner Health Plus or equivalent. It helps to ward off any bugs or shortens the illness time if you do get sick (a tip from my GP).
  • Rest when they rest. My eldest vomits in his sleep, so I sleep little and it’s the only time I have learnt to rest and not feel guilty about it. I have to be well for them. If you have other children, ask friends or family to look after them, even just for a few short hours. I find it makes all the difference.
  • Don’t stress about house work. As long as the ‘sick bay’ is clean that’s all you need to worry about. I allocate a sick room. My boys share a room so I literally set up the guest room with the bedside med kit, sick bowl and TV (we don’t have TVs in bedrooms). This helps prevent transmission and better healing. 
  • Always call a doctor if you are scared or unsure. I used to worry that people would think I was always taking my children to the GP, but now I just don't fret about what anyone thinks. My children are still alive and that’s the main thing.

So, while I've been writing this I have also dealt with the real estate agent. I am now heading off to mow the lawn and then replace the wheel on B1’s bike so he can face plant some more – but hopefully without too much time in the ER as I am sort of tiring of the nurse's hat (even if my husband isn't!)

More columns from Oil & Gas Mum, Deb Russo:

Check out Deb's daily blog at and if you've got any questions for her, please click here.

And here's another oil and gas couple's advice on making FIFO family life work when you're working offshore