News: Nurse teaches first aid to Afghan guards
Story by Todd Lyman
KABUL—On Feb. 28 document proclaiming March 2013 as Women's History Month, Judi Wright was busy working.
Wright, USACE Transatlantic District North’s occupational health nurse was personally handing certificates of achievement to her recent first aid class graduates here. Nearly 70 Burhan Security Services (BSS) guards, all Afghan citizens, proudly accepted the evidence of their accomplishment after hours of instruction and hands-on practical application. The certificates also represent the dedication of a woman who ascended to a position of service via her study of nursing science.
The registered nurse earned her science degree in nursing from Augusta State University. Wright served eight years in the Army Reserve and spent a year in Iraq as a trauma nurse.
“I wanted to be in the medical field for as long as I remember,” she said. “I would recommend nursing to anyone, but you have to love it. You can’t do it for money, or you won’t make it.”
Following school she worked at multiple hospitals. Eventually, the Georgia native worked at Fort Gordon as an emergency room nurse when the Iraq War started. She heard that nurses were needed and joined the Reserves as a nurse, "just as so many were retiring. I jumped in head first,” she said. Wright headed to Iraq shortly thereafter.
Congress officially established the Army Nurse Corps Feb. 2, 1901, under the Army Reorganization Act.
Upon her return from Iraq, she worked at Stanford University Hospital, and then Clovis Community Hospital in northern California. While at Clovis she was offered the opportunity to serve in Afghanistan. Clovis’ loss was TAN’s gain. Wright began her 13-month tour here last July.
As TAN’s occupational health nurse, Wright plans, develops, implements, manages, and evaluates occupational health-related programs for field office personnel and some district personnel. Her job comes with plenty of travel within Afghanistan. She also performs site assessments and counsels employees on a wide range of subjects such as abnormal examination findings, general health and fitness, job limitations, emotional problems, and/or special required examinations such as fitness for duty.
Even after 17 years as a trauma nurse, Wright is still passionate about the job.
“The worst part of the job as a trauma nurse was witnessing the pediatric and adult deaths. But I love this work and understand that nurses are needed. When I heard about coming here I know what it takes to serve and knew that I could do it. I love this type of work,” Wright explained.
“The best part of the job is the autonomy. I enjoy going out, finding what needs to be done and doing it. I especially like interacting with the Afghans. The guards here were eager to learn and responded well to the instruction. They were proud of what they accomplished, and rightfully so,” she said.
At Wright’s initiative she developed a first aid class that introduced the different types of bandages and the correct use of tourniquets for hemorrhage control. Guards also learned about splinting and bandaging a fractured extremity. Wright also covered the care of neck, abdominal and chest wounds. She held question- and-answer sessions on multiple topics to reinforce the instruction.
“This group was very enthusiastic and learned quickly. It was truly a privilege to be able to teach them. They now have first responder kits at each of the guard shacks and their own tourniquets and are properly prepared to take care of anyone outside the gate should a suicide bomber or improvised explosive device attack occur. I believe this instruction has removed some of their fears of these situations and gave them a sense of control with the knowledge of being able to respond and save lives in the process,” Wright said of the training.
Wright’s contributions to TAN include setting up a trauma room and assisting medics assigned to distant outposts here.
As with the trauma room, she hopes the training and preparation will never be needed.