Military nursing is a career path that offers professional opportunities, a sense of family, and a commitment to meaningful service. Military nurses are especially proud of their profession on Veteran’s Day. Andrea C. Petrovanie-Green, MSN, NC, RN, USN, AMB-BC, CAPT(Ret) and a member of the board of directors of the American Academy of Ambulatory Care Nursing (AAACN) says nursing is a calling. “It is a gift to help in ‘shaping care where life happens,'” she says. “Personally I am committed to paying it forward and mentoring current and future nurses to realize their full potential.”
CAPT Petrovanie-Green was born in Trinidad and Tobago and raised by her maternal grandmother until she was 13. At that age, she and her brother immigrated to the United States to live with her mother, stepfather, and sister. But Petrovanie-Green never forgot the important lessons from her grandmother. “She was wise beyond her years,” she says. “I learned early on the importance of service and reaching back to help those less fortunate.” Her path to a military nursing career began with those embedded principles.
Petrovanie-Green says she seeks out ways to give back and is currently finishing up a medical mission in Guyana to help promote health and wellness in communities that have limited access to healthcare and resources. After that, you can find her training for the St. Jude half marathon in December and raising money to help end childhood cancer. “This is my 15th year participating and thus far I’ve raised almost $5000,” she says.
How did you find your career path to nursing and to the Navy? How did they merge? I was fortunate to attend a high school that offered a practical nursing program, and it was there my nursing career journey began. In addition, I volunteered at a local hospital as a candy striper and as soon as I was able to work, my first job was serving gourmet dinners to new parents at St. Vincent’s Medical Center on Staten Island, New York.
During high school I worked as a Certified Nursing Assistant at a local nursing home and home health aide. Upon graduation I successfully passed the Licensed Practical Nursing exam and was promoted to Charge Nurse. While attending Wagner College, I was selected for a Navy nursing scholarship, and following graduation I was commissioned an Ensign in the United States Navy in 1993. I retired in May 2023 after 30 years of honorable and faithful service to our great nation.
You are a long-time member of AAACN. How does that help you as a nurse? I was encouraged to become a member of AAACN by my mentor Dr. Wanda Richards who is a retired Navy Nurse Corps Captain. At the time, I was working in orthopedic clinic and immediately began preparing for the certification exam. During my first conference, I felt a strong sense of this is exactly where I want to be. The passion, energy, and commitment to ambulatory care nursing was palpable during every session and with each encounter. The focus on health, wellness, and disease management aligned with the military health system.
As a professional nurse, becoming certified demonstrates your commitment to your specialty and more importantly your patient population. AAACN has been an unwavering supporter in helping chart the course for ambulatory care nursing in the military. I am grateful for the many opportunities such as this to serve as a voice for the future of nursing.
What nursing and professional skills are most essential in your role? As an ambulatory care nurse, developing a partnership with patients and their families is most essential for building trust and improving health and well-being. According to a Gallup poll in 2022 nursing was rated the most trusted profession for 21 years in a row! The art of listening and effective communication is critical in further enriching these relationships to achieve desired outcomes. When patients feel valued and heard they are more willing to be a an active participant in their health care and decision making. As a reminder to myself, I often reflect on Dr. Maya Angelou’s quote “People will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.”
What would you like other nurses to know about a career in military nursing? Military nursing is very unique and offers a plethora of opportunities for advanced training, education, and leadership early in your career. Wearing the cloth of the nation and the opportunity to care for our fellow comrades and their families is a rewarding and life-changing experience. In addition, if traveling and living in different countries appeals to you, then serving in the military may be a good fit. To be fully transparent there are many sacrifices such as being away from family and loved ones as well as physical requirements. Coming from a small family, I especially appreciated the relationships, camaraderie, and lifelong friendships.
Why is it so essential to have a diverse representation of nurses in the military? In caring for Sailors, Soldiers, Marines and their families, it is essential to have a diverse representation of military nurses. In addition, global engagement with deployments and humanitarian missions strategically position military nurses to provide care to diverse cultures and backgrounds. Training on cultural competence focusing on nursing implications is a prerequisite with annual review and update as needed.
What do you find most exciting or most meaningful about your career and what you have accomplished? Most exciting about my career was having the opportunity to serve onboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort when we embarked on our first humanitarian mission to Latin America and the Caribbean. My experience working as a member of the medical operations team was outside my comfort zone, and I was excited for the challenge. I learned valuable skills in communication and coordination and the relationships developed with our host nations was truly humbling. The highlight of our mission was returning to my home country of Trinidad and Tobago serving as an ambassador for the United States. Reflecting back on this experience always brings a sense of grace and gratitude.
Clara Bridges, Atlanta Housing’s oldest living resident and nursing veteran of 33 years, celebrated her 102nd birthday with friends, family, and song at the Peachtree Senior Tower, where she has been a resident since 1975.
The spry centenarian, known for her sharp memory, recalls birthdays and phone numbers of nieces and nephews. At 102, she still has a quick wit, a zest for life, and the energy to exercise and enjoy healthy foods.
She answered with hushed passion when asked for the secret to her longevity. “People don’t know. God rained down on us. Days like this, people don’t realize what senior citizens go through,” she explains. “How did you get there, Ms. Bridges?” she says, she is often asked. “I said, just a closer walk with God.”
Her wisdom continues. “I look back over my life and often ask myself, ‘Have I lived the life that was given to me to live? ’Cause a lot of us would take someone else’s life and live,” she explains. “But I wanted mine.”
The day’s treat was having one of her birthday wishes come true: to meet Dr. Bernice King. Dr. King reached a milestone birthday herself. “Whenever somebody this age calls, God’s speaking,” says King. “I hope we don’t take this moment for granted or lightly.”
An Atlanta native who grew up in what is now known as the West End, Bridges knew she wanted to be a nurse by the time she was seven. After graduating from Booker T. Washington High School and completing nursing programs at Clark College and Grady Hospital, she enlisted in the U.S. Army and served honorably at four military installations. After 33 years of service in nursing, Mama Bridges, as she is affectionately known, retired to the senior high-rise in 1976, becoming its first Black resident.
“Mama Bridges represents the best of Atlanta, our state, and our region,” says Eugene E. Jones, Jr., president and CEO of Atlanta Housing. We are privileged and honored to still have her in our lives, and the love and compassion she shares is a living example for us all.”
As the school year starts up again, we thought we’d share why nurses love what they do to help inspire prospective students to pursue this rewarding career. We asked each nurse why it’s great to be a nurse right now and they gave us many different reasons, but they all agree on one thing: being a nurse rocks!
Here are seven reasons prospective students should consider nursing.
“2018 is a great time to be a nurse. I’m a Clinical Nurse Educator for patients with chronic granulomatous disease, a rare disease that only 20 people in the U.S. are born with each year, and my job takes me around the country to meet with them in person—but we can connect virtually as well. I’m able to build great, personal relationships with my patients—and, having four children myself—being able to be there for patients like that means the world to me. Additionally, the resources available are incredible: connecting my patients and their caregivers with online social communities and others in the rare disease community who understand their experiences is so helpful in ensuring that they feel less alone. Witnessing this positive impact on their outlook on their condition is extremely rewarding.” —Brian Coyle, BSN, MBA, RN MSCN, Clinical Nurse Educator at Horizon Pharma
“Nursing is future proof. A complex computer algorithm meant to replace nurse anesthetists like me for endoscopy procedures was recently pulled from the market, because robots can’t do this job. The ethical and bureaucratic hurdles have never been more challenging, so nurses feel useful and irreplaceable.” —Nick Angelis, CRNA, MSN
“The best part about being a nurse in 2018 is having access to the best education, technology, and resources available, which allows us to pinpoint clients’ needs and help them achieve their daily goals and a better quality of life.” —Eronmwon Balogun, RN, BSN, Skilled Home Care Nurse, BAYADA Home Health Care
“I’ve always had an overwhelming sense that I needed to help anyone I felt was in pain either physically or emotionally. I truly believe it’s within my soul—an innate gift. When I was an Army medic, I was in constant awe of my fellow soldiers—whether a medic, nurse, or MD—the camaraderie was powerful. I knew I wanted to pursue nursing as a career.
When I graduated nursing school, I began my journey in Oncology. Twenty-seven years later, I am still fortunate enough to be caring for the Oncology population. To this day, I still have that feeling in my heart and gut—the sense that has allowed me to become part of so many lives, and to help countless patients and families.” —Kevin Flint, RN, BSN, MBA, OCN, Nurse Director, Vernon Cancer Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital
“Today’s world is fueled by powerful women, and this is very evident in the nursing profession. You are never limited as a nurse because you can work anywhere you want—in a school, hospital, or even home setting. Nursing is an empowering profession that is in demand and can take you nearly anywhere you want to go.” —Pamela Compagnola, RN, Clinical Manager, BAYADA Home Health Care
“In our high-tech world, as a nurse I love that I am still able to give a personal human touch to people in need of care. For me, the person-to-person connection is why I went into this field and brings me simple joy every day.” —Lannette Cornell Bloom, BSN, RN, author of Memories in Dragonflies, Simple Lessons for Mindful Dying
“Nurses today have endless possibility and opportunity to really make a difference. We need to believe and be empowered that we do make a difference and that we are a big part of the health care system.” —Rodilyn Glushchenko, RN, MSN, CCRN, CCNS, NE-BC, Nurse Director ICU, Hemodialysis and Cardiovascular Center, Newton-Wellesley Hospital
Student nurses don’t need anyone to tell them their lives are busy. With school, work, families, and a personal life, many student nurses are juggling more than most people. Tamar Rodney, MSN, RN, PMHNP-BC, CNE | PhD-c, is a Geneva Foundation/Jonas Veterans Healthcare Scholar 2016-2018 at the Johns Hopkins University School of Nursing and is no exception.
To celebrate today’s observation of National Student Nurses Day, Rodney gave some insight to what life is like for a graduate student in nursing school. As a PhD candidate in nursing, she has been through the rigors of nursing school for a while. What she knows is that her dedication and the time spent on her education is going to bring her to the place she wants to be. Along the way, says Rodney, the journey itself is pretty amazing.
“I love being a nurse, and having the opportunity to make someone’s day or life better,” she says. “I felt drawn to nursing because I admired my memories of childhood reactions to nurses. Their presence meant someone was here to help. I have always carried that image with me of bringing a sense of comfort, security, and a sense of care to someone else.”
Rodney knew going for her PhD would be hard work, but she says her patients were her inspiration and continue to be the motivation to learning as much as she can. “My journey to pursue a PhD was influenced by the day-to-day care of my patients,” she says. “I saw problems that were not addressed and felt like having concrete research would be a good way to start being able to answer those questions.”
And while continuing her education is far from easy, it has brought her a level of satisfaction and of personal and professional growth. “Graduate school is as challenging as I thought it would be,” she says, “but I also got the opportunity to think independently and explore questions that I was interested in. I could finally expand my thinking about ways to provide better care for my patients. I also saw the direct link and importance of collaborating with other healthcare providers and disseminating research for implementation at the bedside.” Eventually, she says, she would like to combine the teaching, research, and practice areas of nursing into one career.
Rodney completed her LPN and RN at Dickinson State University in Dickinson ND, and she started out her career as an LPN working in a nursing home. “I loved it,” she says, “and felt like I would get a new history lesson every day I went to work.” From there, she worked in inpatient psychiatry, primarily to learn more about mental health and how better to approach treatment and diagnosis. It was during that time that she began her MSN program at the University of Vermont.
Discovering a new passion for mental health, Rodney took advantage of certification and gained her psychiatric mental health nurse practitioner certification. “I recently completed my PhD studies at The Johns Hopkins University, exploring biomarkers for PTSD in military personnel and veterans with traumatic brain injuries.” All of her studies are helping her get closer to where she wants. “My ultimate goal is to change the way we approach diagnosis and treatment of mental health disorders,” she says.
Like nursing practice, a nursing career isn’t done in a vacuum. Joining a professional organization (Rodney belongs to the Graduate Nursing Student Academy) is a way to network and share resources with other student nurses. “Having completed my program I now have a large network of other young professionals with whom I can collaborate and have as supportive resources,” say Rodney.
And graduate school itself offers opportunities for growth that are unexpected, because you are finding the answers but also beginning to ask the deeper questions. “Graduate work in nursing is a unique way to advance one’s personal understanding of nursing practice, an opportunity to deliver the best care possible and advance nursing research and practice,” she says. “You can explore those questions that you have an interest in and explore innovative ways to answer it.”
January 21 through 27 is National CRNA Week, and we’re celebrating by getting up-close and personal with the CRNAs who make the medical world go ‘round! Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists (CRNAs) safely administer about 43 million anesthetics each year, making surgeries and medical treatments safer. These professionals not only administer anesthesia, but also help ensure patient comfort and security.
CRNAs come from all walks of life and work in a wide range of communities. Interestingly, the American Association of Nurse Anesthetists (AANA) reports that CRNAs are the sole providers in nearly 100% of rural hospitals in some states as well as within the U.S. Armed Forces. Make sure to thank your favorite CRNA during CRNA week and surprise them with something special to say thanks! We love the idea of gifting them a personalized stethoscope with custom engraving as an awesome way to pay tribute.
What Does a CRNA Do Every Day?
What’s life like as a CRNA? Let’s take a closer look. Every day, nurse anesthetists monitor patients during surgery. This requires preparing and administering drugs before anesthesia, managing patients’ airways, and pulmonary status during surgery and closely observing their physical reaction to drugs. They may also perform pre-anesthesia screenings to determine a patient’s risk and administer epidurals in maternity wards.
But there are many other things that CRNAs are responsible for each day, according to Lincoln Memorial University Clinical Coordinator and CRNA Joy Lewis. “We do pre-op and post-op rounds, consults for pain management, place central lines, respond to codes, place and manage labor epidurals, upon consultation implement respiratory and ventilatory management including establish emergency airways,” says Lewis.
Dan Lovinaria, a CRNA with Veterans Affairs at Minneapolis Medical Center, says there’s an emotional aspect to the job, too.
“Being a VA CRNA comes with a tremendous responsibility and a great deal of accountability,” he says. “Patients are often anxious and nervous about their surgical procedures. It is my duty and responsibility to set the tone and make an immediate connection with my patients upon their arrival in the preoperative phase. Something as simple as providing warm blankets to my patients goes a long way. The little things make a significant impact.”
What’s the Schedule Like?
Surgeons have notoriously demanding schedules, whether they’re responding to emergencies or running on a tight, pre-determined schedule. Since CRNAs are required to be present for many of those surgeries, their schedules may be even busier than a surgeon’s.
“Oftentimes our schedules are busier than the surgeons if we work at a hospital with [obstetrics]. Once you place an epidural you may not be able to leave, and they will still want the operation to start on time,” Lewis says.
Lovinaria says he and his team work various shifts, including 8-hour, 10-hour, 12-hour, and overnight shifts.
Who’s Their Boss?
But there’s good news, too. CRNAs operate on a more autonomous schedule—they’re not required to be supervised by an anesthesiologist in any of the 50 states—so their shifts and schedules vary compared with traditional registered nurses. CRNAs may work as part of an anesthesia care team or as individual providers.
Robert J. Gauvin, a CRNA who’s also the president of Anesthesia Professionals, Inc. in Dartmouth, Massachusetts, says owning an anesthesia care business means more work but even more autonomy.
“Because of my unique position as a business owner and practicing CRNA, a typical day involves the 30-plus CRNAs in my group taking care of one to 45 patients in multiple facilities, followed by two to three hours of administrative duties,” Gauvin says. “On a weekly basis, I try to build in dedicated office days that allow me to focus on developing the business side of my practice.”
What About the Education Factor?
Because CRNAs have a much more specialized skill set than traditional RNs, they’re required to have extra education. Most CRNAs start out as RNs and are then required to complete a master’s degree in nursing (MSN), which typically takes about two years. CRNAs must then pass the National Certification Exam (NCE), which covers the knowledge, skills and abilities needed by entry-level CRNAs.
“Pursuing my studies as a CRNA demanded my efforts and abilities in many ways: mentally, physically, emotionally, financially, and so on,” says Mary Nguyen, a CRNA at Lourdes Hospital in Paducah, Kentucky. “My whole world was completely changed. With that being said, I’d do it all over again to have the privilege to work in my position as a CRNA.”
Nguyen also emphasized the importance of the CRNA certification exam. “The best advice that I can give to others is: ‘Respect the Test!’ The National Certification Exam (NCE) requires a level of thinking and comprehension of anesthesia that is only attained after rigorous clinical experiences paired with thorough reading and studies,” she says.
And then, of course, CRNAs must put a significant amount of time and money into continued education in order to keep their certification active. According to CRNA Bruce Schoneboom, the Senior Director of Education and Professional Development with the AANA, CRNAs must regularly become re-certified.
“The National Board of Certification and Recertification for Nurse Anesthetists’ new recertification program is called the Continued Professional Certification (CPC) Program and consists of eight-year periods. Each period is comprised of two four-year cycles. Every two years CRNAs will check in through a simple, online process known as the ‘two-year check-in,’” Schoneboom says. CRNAs must complete 100 additional education credits in an eight-year period.
Is It as Rewarding as They Say?
Talk to any nurse, and he or she will tell you that there’s a certain pride in putting on a pair of scrubs every morning. But is being a CRNA just as fulfilling as the traditional RN track? Yes, say CRNAs. And the proof is in the pudding: CRNA is a career with one of the highest job satisfaction ratings within nursing.
“There are so many rewarding moments being a CRNA. The one-to-one patient/CRNA interaction is a very valuable experience, and so is engaging the vets’ caregivers or significant others about the anesthesia plan of care,” says Lovinaria, adding that it’s the critical thinking component of the job and its dynamic changes that keep him on his toes.
Nguyen agrees: “I can honestly and wholeheartedly share that even on my worst day, doing what I love is better and more rewarding than a single day doing something else. I would choose this profession over any other option available,” she says.
Make sure to give your favorite CRNA plenty of props during CRNA Week this year!
Marygrace Colucci (center) along with her supervisor/nurse manager Louise Esposito (right) and Marianna Vazquez, CNO (left)
Imagine moving to the United States from the Philippines and building a nursing and military career. That’s what Marygrace Colucci, RN, BSN, MSN, did when she migrated to the U.S. in 1995. Today, Colucci is living her lifelong dream as a staff RN in the ophthalmology operating room at Northwell Health at Syosset Hospital in New Hyde Park, New York.
In May, Colucci was honored with the Zuckerberg Nursing Excellence Award during National Nurses Week. The award recognizes exceptional nurses at Northwell Health.
“Ever since I was a little girl, I wanted to be a nurse,” Colucci says. “I have seven siblings, so my parents could only send me to a two-year midwifery program due to the financial constraint to support a four-year BSN program. I graduated at 18, passed the midwifery board but couldn’t get my license until I was 21 years old. I started working as a midwife in the hospital with just a permit, and I remember having so much fun delivering babies, and assisting in C-section procedures.”
Colucci says that when she first arrived in the U.S., it was a huge culture shock. “I missed my family and friends. I was homesick, but eventually got over it,” she says. “I was afraid to talk to people because of the language barrier; not because I didn’t know how to speak the language, but more because I was shy of my English and my accent.”
Colucci was inspired by her cousin who served in the U.S. Army as a nurse. “He was sort of my role model, and that is why I joined the Army Reserve in 1998,” Colucci says. “Joining the Army helped me overcome most of the challenges I had to face back then such as the language barrier, being shy, and lacking self-confidence. The Army taught me how to face all kinds of adversity. I’d have to say the Army really turned me into the kind of person I am today.”
Another supportive influence for Colucci has been her husband. “When I graduated with my associate’s degree in nursing, he told me I should go back to school, which I intended to do anyway. I went on to finish my BSN, and he told me again that I should go for my master’s, which I intended on doing. But him pushing me to go further was really a good motivator. And now that I’m done with my NP, he said go for your doctorate, which I’m still considering.”
Colucci says for now she is focusing on her military career. She hopes to be promoted to major in the future. “I also want to focus on helping soldiers from my unit, which I am currently commanding,” she says. “I try to motivate my soldiers and tell them that they can do so much with their skills, and that there are so many opportunities available if they’ll just work hard for everything that they want to achieve.”
“I also tell my fellow Filipino coworkers to advance their education by going back to school,” she says. “I told them that if I can do it, so can they. I’m not really smart; I just happen to be disciplined and really put a lot of time and effort into everything I set my mind on achieving.”
Colucci sees herself working in emergency medicine in the future. “I had a great time when I was doing my clinical at the urgent care centers. I told myself I will embark in that field if given the chance. I think emergency medicine is a very good and rewarding field to practice. I would like to be promoted to major in the next two years; and eventually to lieutenant colonel in the Army Nurse Corps.”