Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

A Nurse's Camaraderie, Compassion, and Service in Iraq

Academic journal article Nursing Education Perspectives

A Nurse's Camaraderie, Compassion, and Service in Iraq

Article excerpt

"WE KNEW WE WERE NEEDED WHEN WE ARRIVED in the 31st Combat Support Hospital," explained Karen O'Brien, BSN, RN, upon her arrival in Balad, Baghdad. 'The hospital staff had been working 12-hour days and they were very happy to see us. Immediately, we provided clinical help to their ER, critical care units, lab, and pharmacy." During the next six weeks in Iraq, O'Brien discovered that solving problems and determining how to get things done would be her greatest challenge.

O'Brien has taught at Saint Xavier University since 1997, when she started coursework as a clinical nurse specialist while also juggling her responsibilities as a mother and as a reservist in the United States Army. O'Brien was focused on learning as much as she could as a graduate student in the School of Nursing, until February of 2003 when she was called to active duty in Kuwait. As a movement officer, O'Brien assisted with the mobilization, function, and day-to-day operations of a hospital.

What started as a six-month assignment was extended twice for O'Brien and her division and in April 2004, within 24 hours from their departure for the United States, O'Brien and the 801st Combat Support Hospital from Fort Sheridan, Illinois, were told they were being reassigned to Iraq.

"I had to send an email to my family when I learned I wasn't coming home. I couldn't even say the words out loud. It was very hard." Yet once Karen and the other members of the 801st Combat Support Hospital saw how much their services were needed, they instantly focused and began caring for the injuries of US and coalition soldiers, Iraqi civilians, and children. …

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