ARMY NURSING: Educational and Professional Opportunities

Article excerpt

For more than 200 years, the U.S. Army Medical Department (AMEDD) has served and protected U.S. forces and their families, worked to save the lives of civilians and improved health-care systems across the globe. In today's Army, the more than 11,000 men and women of the Army Nurse Corps (ANC) are the backbone of one of the biggest health-care networks in the world, seeing to the health of our troops across all stages of care.

As one of the fastest-growing fields in health care, nursing continues to be a highly sought-after and highly rewarding career, both in the Army and civilian sectors. Nurses today are challenged with learning increasingly complex technology and practices in a fastpaced and competitive environment while still focusing on the needs of the patient.

To attract and retain this vital group of health-care professionals, the ANC provides nurses like Capt. Pauline Potter, assistant head nurse on one of the medical surgical wards at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas, with a number of educational, training and financial opportunities to care for patients in a variety of settings and to continue to develop professionally.

Capt. Potter earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing at Viterbo University in La Crosse, Wis., through an ROTC scholarship. Though she did not come from a military family and initially considered the Army primarily as a way to pay for college, Capt. Potter fell in love with the Army and the experiences she's been able to have as an active duty ANC officer.

After graduation and her first job in an orthopedic ward, Capt. Potter deployed to Bosnia, where she worked in an emergency room. From there, she moved to West Point, N.Y., where she became the head nurse of the Mologne Cadet Health Clinic. Caring for the 4,000 cadets at the clinic was much like working in a family practice clinic, says Capt. Potter: "We provided everything from immunizations to X-rays."

Compared to their civilian counterparts, Army nurses often have greater autonomy and are able to practice nursing in a more collaborative team environment. Their professional judgment is the driving force behind providing full spectrum patient care, including identifying and organizing multidisciplinary resources for patients and their families to help them with inpatient, outpatient and home care.

This opportunity to supervise and make decisions about day-to-day patient care builds valuable leadership and management skills.

It was at Capt. Potter's next position, as the director of the Health Promotion Center, a public health center at Fort Sam Houston, that she became more interested in research. Eventually she deployed to Iraq as part of the deployed combat casualty research team (DC^sup 2^RT). The six-person EXZ^sup 2^RT was in country for six months to study combat injuries. As the primary data collectors, the team was involved in hands-on research in emergency rooms. Its mission was to identify medical practices that best saved soldiers' lives. The team tracked incoming patients to study the effects of different kinds of combat care, including the types of tourniquets used and the effects of different blood products.

"I've pursued such an interesting range of practices and settings-emergency room nursing, practicing in an outpatient clinic, public-health nursing and research," says Capt. Potter. "When I compare myself to another nurse my age who isn't in the Army, he or she would not have been able to do all of this. There just aren't the same opportunities in civilian nursing."

Through clinical specialization courses and advanced degree programs, the Army Nurse Corps helps its officers build their nursing skills and grow their careers. …