Nurses and medics making a difference one patient at a time

  • Published
  • By Tech. Sgt. Colette M. Graham
  • 4th Fighter Wing Public Affairs
Nurse practitioners, nurses and medical technicians assigned to the 4th Medical Group Clinic care for Airmen, dependents and retirees on a daily basis, but there is much more to their occupations than one may realize.

From screening patients and applying medical knowledge to treating or preventing further illnesses, filling in where short-handed and shifting schedules around to support families of deployed Airmen to using their expertise to help their families, the medical staff at the 4th MDG stay fully committed to their occupation, even when it gets rough.

"[A day in the life of a clinical nurse is] a non-stop rush of clinical and administrative work that brings you much joy and some frustration. You have your hands in what seems like every issue and every solution," said Lyndon Johnson, a pediatric clinical nurse with the 4th Medical Operations Squadron.

"Our day starts at 7 a.m. and ends at 4:30 p.m. if you're lucky, but most days end in a 12-hour shift or more. Throughout the day, I repeatedly prioritize the patients' needs and address the most important issues first. Everything is about organization and prioritization," said Capt. Michelle Luttrell, Family Medicine Clinic nurse manager.

Pediatric clinic officer in charge Maj. Mark Terwilliger was a registered nurse for eight years before becoming a nurse practitioner.

"As a certified pediatric nurse practitioner, my day is not unlike that of any other medical provider. I get to work to find a day scheduled full of both sick and well children with a variety of medical needs," he said. "In between patients I try to find brief moments of time to review consult reports, call patients/parents back, get some training done and coordinate my extra duties. I generally keep very busy. I could never do it all by myself though. I have many colleagues I frequently consult with and I have a wonderful support staff to keep me in line!"

Physicians, nurses and technicians have separate duties but they also follow the Family Health Initiative program that consists of a primary care doctor, nurse and technicians working as a team to provide treatment for most conditions and making referrals to specialists as needed.

Medical technicians deal with diagnosing duty-limiting conditions, screening patients, reviewing records and various treatments such as assisting with ingrown toenail removals, vasectomies, cyst removals, sutures, ear irrigations and much more. They are the first medical personnel to see patients and find out information concerning the patient's medical concerns prior to seeing the physician. Technicians make it possible for providers to spend more time with patients by gathering important information upfront from the patients.

"We are kind of like the bridge in-between the patient and the doctor," said 4th Aerospace Medicine Squadron aerospace medical technician Airman 1st Class Kristen Leavesseur.

Nurses' duties include reviewing patients' records in preparation for appointments. They see patients for minor illnesses or injuries and administer shots and intravenous injections when needed. Nurses are sometimes disease and case managers who provide education to patients with diseases such as diabetes and help patients with serious chronic conditions. They also assess patients' medical issues over the phone to determine if they need to be seen at the clinic, urgent care or emergency room. Nurses continually use preventive measures, coordinate treatments for patients and move information between the technicians and providers.

"I provide the care on a daily basis that builds the foundation for what the doctors, physician's assistants, and nurse practitioners do when they see the patient. I also take care of people when they need it most," Captain Luttrell said.

"I believe nurses (RN, LPN, Medical Technicians, etc...) are the backbone of our medical system, civilian and military. They are vital to the provision of both inpatient and outpatient care and are integral to the day-to-day administrative operations of clinics and inpatient wards," Major Terwilliger said. "In my experience, nurses are generally more compassionate, nurturing, empathetic, and have the ability to take more time with patients than our busy physicians and midlevel providers. Nurses are well educated/trained and are incredible educators as well."

Airmen at the 4th MDG have experienced proud moments and challenges while performing their normal duties here. Pediatric aerospace medical technician Senior Airman Nathan Carlson recognized a heart murmur in a 2-year old that had not been diagnosed. Medical services flight chief Tech. Sgt. Nina Anderson treated her parents' terminal illnesses the last five years before they passed away during a humanitarian assignment here. Sergeant Anderson cleaned her mom's trache, packed her wounds and was able to administer all her mom's treatments for the two years her mom was ill. She is also a licensed practical nurse managing three clinics.
"I would never have had that experience. I was very fortunate and very blessed that I was a nurse because it helped me to take care of my terminally ill parents," said Sergeant Anderson.

"The love of people and my love of God [drives me to continue to be a nurse]. I stayed with it because I just love working with people and helping them feel better," Johnson said.

The Airmen at the 4th MDG not only show they love their jobs but they consistently strive to provide better quality health care for the Airmen and families of the 4th Fighter Wing.

"Knowing that I am making a difference in someone's life, making them feel better, they come in worried or sad because something is wrong with them and leave with a little smile, that's what matters," said 4th MDOS aerospace medical technician Staff Sgt. Owens.