It turns out that small-town farm living isn't a far cry from life at NASA's Langley Research Center - at least, according to Sandra Buss and Brandi Klika, nurses at NASA Langley's Clinic. Both recall being on their separate family farms and seeing a vehicle approaching, tires pushing up dirt and clouds of dust from the unpaved road that cut through acres of fields up to their home.
Their fathers would look out to see what the vehicle color, make and model was, and almost always knew the driver by name and occupation.
Decades later, they find themselves sitting in the same office, looking out into the clinic parking lot, often recognizing a vehicle and almost always knowing the driver by name and by the services they seek.
"All we are missing is a rain gauge and a weather vain outside of our window," Klika said, as Buss laughed in agreement.
Both explained that life on the farm revolved around planting and harvesting. Klika's father grew mostly corn and soybean on their Lynn, Ind., farm. Buss' father also grew corn and soybean, along with tobacco, on their Olanta, S.C. farm.
Growing up on a farm, they learned to think "outside of the box." When stores weren't nearby, and a horse was sick or a fence was broken, they figured out their own solutions. Klika says that type of critical thinking attracted her to nursing. Being presented with disjointed symptoms requires thinking critically, something she does well. She decided to pursue pre-med and graduated from the University of Indianapolis. She worked primarily in cardiac care before coming to NASA Langley more than two years ago when her husband landed a job in the area.
Buss, who has worked at NASA Langley for one year, realized nursing was her calling when she was 15 years old and her mom was in the hospital. She helped to take care of her, while getting to talk with the nurses. Her first nursing job after graduating from the Medical University of South Carolina was in a burn unit.
"Still, to this day, I can remember most of those patients," Buss said.
At NASA Langley, the focus is on health and wellness, which is a standard that they practice in their own lives through diet and exercise.
Buss' husband is a retired Navy officer and, with their two adult sons having recently left home, they've found more time to run together. They recently completed a half-marathon.
Klika plays volleyball at the center, but is taking a break to spend more time with her 11-month-old daughter, Berkley.
Klika admires Buss' knack for running, and Buss admires Klika's knack for being a new parent.
Klika convinced Buss to get a smartphone and taught her how to use certain applications to virtually keep in touch with her sons. Her oldest is currently deployed in the Navy. Her youngest son is a junior at Auburn University, studying zoology.
"The caring never ends," Buss said. "But thank goodness for technology."
Buss and Klika seem to go together like peas and carrots, or maybe corn and soybean.
When given the time and chance, they head back down those dirt roads where they found their common ground, welcomed by their parents and their siblings, who live on nearby farms.
It's not much different from returning to the clinic each weekday morning.
"NASA is the same, you get to know everyone and we all take care of each other," Klika said. "There's always that sense of community."
NASA Langley Research Center