My career in the military is a little unique. I had a career as a nurse even before I joined.
After I graduated from nursing school, I worked on a transplant unit then spent about six years in public health.
But I wanted to do something new.
Several family members were in the military and their experiences made me want to join.
My dream was to go into maternity health nursing and I knew that the Navy had opportunities. I decided to follow my dream and contacted a Navy recruiter.
I took my oath of office in January 2001 and went on active service in March 2001.
I had strong nursing credentials, but I still needed to learn how to be an officer in the military.
I went to Office Indoctrination School in Newport, Rhode Island for a six-week program that taught me Navy traditions, customs, and rules.
I also learned valuable leadership skills.
My first assignment was as a staff nurse on the mother-baby unit at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.
This was exactly where I wanted to be.
My experience in public health helped me promote family-centered care and provide information to new mothers and fathers.
I also taught the novice nurses, wrote clinical competencies and trained labor and delivery nurses about neonatal care.
In all of my years as a civilian nurse, I never had the opportunity to work in a maternity ward.
As a Navy nurse, though, my opportunities expanded.
We provide medical care to both the Navy and Marines.
It’s a large population and we’re trained to develop a wide range of skills, from ambulatory nursing to surgical nursing.
When I wanted to make the change to adult surgical nursing, I was able to transfer to the National Naval Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Here, I am a Division Officer on the surgical ward.
I oversee nursing assignments, review the bed management for post-operative patients, and help coordinate patient care through a team of social workers, physicians, and physical therapists.
I’m also a charge nurse so I spend a good part of the day answering questions about patient treatment and helping nurses improve their therapeutic skills.
My most rewarding experience as a Navy nurse was my tour of duty in Iraq in 2003.
I was deployed with a Marine medical battalion unit and served as Head Nurse on the Enemy Prisoners of War Unit. This was a mobile unit with operating rooms, triage areas, and an Intensive Care Unit (ICU).
We could take care of 20 patients at a time.
This experience taught me the value of teamwork and reinforced my decision to join the military—to take care of everyone whether in peacetime or in wartime.
To continue my nursing education, I would like to enter the Duty Under Instruction (DUINS) program and obtain a Masters in adult health care nursing.
I would then be certified as a clinical nurse specialist.
In this capacity, I would still continue to work with patients and also do what I like best which is to mentor and teach novice nurses.
At some point in my career, I would also like to go overseas, possibly to Europe or Japan.
I would like to live and work in a different culture, and also practice nursing in a smaller medical treatment facility.