Military nursing personnel: Serving their country, their profession

  • Published
  • By Anonymous
  • 82nd Medical Group
National Nurses Week was officially designated in 1994 as May 6 through May 12, the birthday of Florence Nightengale, the founder of modern nursing. 

The Air Force celebrates this special week by honoring all nursing personnel - registered nurses, licensed vocational nurses and medical technicians, both active duty and civilian. The American Nurses Association has designated this year's theme as "Nurses: Strength, Commitment, Compassion." 

This year's theme embodies what it means to be a nurse or medical technician serving the Air Force. Providing nursing care in peace and war for over a century, Air Force nursing requires special strength, commitment and compassion because we actually have two professions: serving our beneficiaries at home and being ready to deploy - anytime, anywhere. 

At the 82nd Medical Group, as in other military treatment facilities, we must also be ready to respond to local and national disasters and continuously train to maintain our skills and competency. The military healthcare system also depends highly on our civilian colleagues to step in when active duty personnel are tasked to deploy. 

Even with these demands, we are far from overwhelmed. We manage the daily duties and priorities as professional nurses and skilled medical technicians, obligated to our patients and comrades as commissioned officers, professional airmen and dedicated civilian specialists. Whether working at our home-based units or deployed locations, the focus is always on teamwork, and in the team we find our strength to fulfill our duties. 

Although Air Force nurses and medical technicians perform many of the same roles as in the civilian sector, Air Force nursing personnel have nursing expertise as well as readiness skills - each a profession of its own. While medics train in their clinical skills year round, we also have ongoing readiness skills training to prepare us for the ability to rapidly deploy - 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. 

In addition to medical readiness skills training, active duty nurses and technicians are mentored and guided daily to be better leaders, physically fit, and mentally ready for any challenge. 

In the past year, Air Force nurses and medical technicians from the 82nd MDG have been extremely active with participation in Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operation Enduring Freedom and the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. In discussions with three nursing professionals who deployed to Balad Air Base, Iraq, from September 2005 to January 2006, there was definite confirmation that the lives of these troops were changed for the better. 

They all agreed that they gained a new respect for both professions. The Air Force core values - integrity first, service before self, and excellence in all we do - are even more a part of their thoughts each day. 

"I am a better leader, officer, wife, mother, and friend having served in Balad," said Lt. Col. Glenda Mitchell, flight commander for medical services. While deployed, Colonel Mitchell was assigned with "an amazing group of 64 individuals, all committed to facilitating the safe care and medical airlift of combat and non-combat casualties."
She praised her fellow Airmen for accomplishing the mission with such commitment and compassion. 

Colonel Mitchell was not alone in her feelings. 

"We all went to Balad with our own expectations and worries," said Tech. Sgt. Dandy Aaron of the 82nd Medical Operations Squadron, continuing with her thoughts on patient care for wounded coalition soldiers and detainee patients. "We were just one of the legs in their race for life." 

She said she left Iraq a much different person and believes that all of the individuals she was deployed with made their mark in a segment of history. 

The most memorable dialogue was with Airman 1st Class Neil Harrington of the 82nd MDOS. Only 21 years old, he was one of the youngest on his deployment team. He said he definitely came back a changed young man. 

Airman Harrington said he remembers growing up thinking of professional athletes, popular actors and singers as idols and heroes. 

"Now, the soldiers who are protecting our country are the true American Idols and heroes," he said. 

Military nurses and medical technicians fulfill many different roles, but one thing that is certain: the number one goal is accomplishing the military mission. The generous acts of kindness in peacetime and their courage in time of war throughout the years will be long remembered. 

The Air Force joins the nation in celebrating "Nurse and Medical Technician Week" because each field of expertise relies on the other to complete the mission. The 82nd MDG has planned various events to honor the profession of nursing during that special week in May. 

Please take time to thank our nurses and technicians who are making a positive impact every day in "two professions."