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    The Last of the Technical Nurse Warrant Officers Bids Farewell

    The Last of the Technical Nurse Warrant Officers Bids Farewell

    Photo By BUMED PAO | CAPT Donna Bradley as Executive Officer of Naval Hospital Beaufort... read more read more



    Story by André Sobocinski 

    U.S. Navy Bureau of Medicine and Surgery

    On February 26th, 2021, Capt. Donna Bradley turned over her role as the Executive Officer of the Naval Support Activity (NSA) Bethesda, and embarked on the final days of her 29 years of service. Her retirement marks an end of an illustrious naval career, and for Navy Medicine, a fond “farewell and following seas” to the last of the technical nurse warrant officers still on active duty.

    The Bureau of Medicine and Surgery (BUMED) established the Technical Nurse Warrant Officer (TNWO) program in 1990 to address the ongoing shortage of BSN nurses in the Navy. The TNWO program allowed for nurses with associates degrees to enter the Nurse Corps as a Warrant Officers grade 1 (WO-1) and rise to the rank of Chief Warrant Officers grade 3 (CWO-3). Unlike commissioned officers, TNWOs held their authority through warrants signed by the Secretary of the Navy rather than the President of the United States. And their ranks placed them between enlisted personnel and commissioned officers.

    Warrant officers were nothing new for Navy Medicine in 1990. From 1974 to 1989—when they received their first commissions—Navy Physician Assistants served in warrant officers grades. And from 1898 until 1947, warrant officer ranks were open to hospital corpsmen with a minimum of six years of service.

    For Bradley, the warrant officer program offered an opportunity to achieve her dream of a Navy career while still pursuing her educational goals.

    The Saline, Michigan native became a Licensed Practical Nurse in 1987 and completed an Associate’s Degree in nursing in 1991. She applied to the Navy’s TNWO program in 1991 after seeing a mailer and was accepted into service. Following indoctrination at Newport, R.I., Bradley was assigned to the Naval Hospital San Diego as a Staff Nurse on the Mother Infant and Same Day Surgery Wards.

    “The big city was overwhelming for a small town farm girl,” recalled Bradley. “But everyone I worked with was very welcoming and helpful. There didn’t seem to be differences about commissioning and skillset on the floor with the Warrants, Ensigns, Lieutenants (Junior Grade) and Lieutenants.”

    TNWOs included nurses from all walks of life, and many nurses with significant life and career experiences entered the Navy through the program. As Bradley noted, “We came and provided education and hands-on support to the brand new Ensigns on the unit. We were able to step in without much training and hit the floor running because we had real world technical life skills. And we were able to be Charge Nurses, mentors and serve as great resources for Hospital Corpsmen.”

    Often the biggest challenges for new warrant officers was senior nurse leadership, some of whom held biases against personnel without BSNs.

    “It seemed that no one wanted the TNWO program and it felt as though we were somehow ‘less than’ because we didn’t have BSNs despite many of us having had years of nursing experience,” explained Bradley. “We were often reminded we didn’t have a BSN and the program wasn’t going to be around long so we should make other plans.”

    From the start of the program there were rumors that it was short-lived and the nurse warrant officers were to be transferred to an enlisted commissioning program or outright RIF’d. Bradley took opportunities afforded as a TNWO and was selected for Full-Time Out-Service Training. She completed her BSN and later MSN as a Perioperative Clinical Nurse Specialist. During this period, BUMED dissolved the TNWO program. Some of the warrant officer nurses left the service, and some like Bradley became commissioned officers in the Nurse Corps.

    Bradley’s experiences as a TNWO was foundational for the ensuing decades of service at Naval Hospitals Groton, Rota, Jacksonville, Yokosuka and Beaufort. In 2001, she served with the Department of Defense Space Shuttle Team. Two years later, she deployed to Er-Rachidia, Morocco in support of MEDFLAG Exercise.

    Capt. Bradley returned to her home state of Michigan in 2004 where she served as Medical Programs Officer Recruiter, Navy Recruiting District Michigan. She was selected as Navy Recruiting District Michigan’s 2005 Officer Recruiter of the Year and Diversity Officer Recruiter of the Year and in 2006 was selected as Officer Recruiter of the Year.

    Bradley served at Naval Hospital Jacksonville where she deployed as a division officer with the Joint Medical Group in support of Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. She reported as the Department Head, Perioperative Services at Naval Hospital Yokosuka in 2010. In 2011, she was the Director of Yokosuka’s Branch Health Clinics during Operation Tomodachi. Following tours with the Office of the Naval Inspector General, Executive Officer of Naval Hospital and Naval Support Facility Beaufort and Commanding Officer of Expeditionary Medical Facility (EMF) Golf. From 2018 to 2019, Bradley served as the Special Assistant and Region Sexual Assault and Prevention Officer for Naval District Washington.

    In December 2019, Capt. Bradley reported to NSA Bethesda as a critical fill Interim Executive Officer and became permanent in April 2020.

    As she looks back today, Capt. Bradley remains proud of her time as a nurse warrant officer and thinks Navy Medicine benefited from having the additional expertise of TNWOs. Although she would not change anything from her career, the guidance she would impart to a WO1 Donna Bradley 29 years ago applies to us all and can be summed up as “savor each moment.”

    “Don’t blink because it will be over before you know it; take it all in and embrace those you meet along the way because they will be your forever friends or as we say ‘framily,’” said Bradley. “[And] remember why you joined the Navy, see the world, and all of the amazing beauty it has to offer and always remember to treat everyone you meet with dignity and respect.”



    Date Taken: 03.16.2021
    Date Posted: 03.16.2021 16:53
    Story ID: 391542
    Location: FALLS CHURCH, VA, US 
    Hometown: SALINE, MI, US

    Web Views: 1,699
    Downloads: 0