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    Nurses Week: Blanchfield Army Community Hospital spotlights careers in nursing

    Nurses Week: Blanchfield Army Community Hospital spotlights careers in nursing

    Courtesy Photo | U.S. Army Nurses at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, Fort Campbell, Kentucky, are...... read more read more



    Story by Maria Christina Yager 

    Blanchfield Army Community Hospital

    FORT CAMPBELL, Ky. – Across the nation Nurses Week is celebrated annually, May 6-12, and serves as an opportunity to spotlight what has been called the most trusted profession in the country.

    “Active duty, National Guard, Reserve, civilian, and contractor nurses are all vital members of our nursing team,” said U.S. Army Col. Richard Clark, a registered nurse and Deputy Commander for Nursing at Blanchfield Army Community Hospital, Fort Campbell, Kentucky. “Nurses play key roles at every level in hospitals, clinics, research labs, classrooms, and more, and in the military, they bring those skills close to the battlefield to save lives.”

    While doctors and nurses are both associated with healthcare, their paths and roles are different.

    “Nursing is more hands on. Surgeons and doctors see the patient for a brief period, but the nurses are the eyes and ears for the doctor. We’re the ones that are with the patient 99% of the time,” said U.S. Army Maj. Dustin McCrary, a perioperative registered nurse in Blanchfield’s post anesthesia care unit.

    McCrary began his Army career as a combat medic specialist working closely with doctors, nurses, and physician assistants. When he decided to attend college and further his medical training, he felt nursing was the right path for him and was even able to use an Army program to pay for his training.

    The U.S. Army Medical Department Enlisted Commissioning Program pays for eligible Soldiers like McCrary to attend college full time to complete a Bachelor of Science in Nursing degree from an accredited program and earn a commission as an Army Nurse Corps Officer. The Army’s Health Professions Scholarship Program can assist individuals with no prior military experience or affiliation complete a BSN and earn a commission in the ANC.

    “The HPSP is one of the most comprehensive scholarships available in the health care field, covering your full tuition for an advanced medical degree while also providing a monthly stipend,” said Clark.

    While these are routes that may help an individual become an Army Nurse, not all nurses within the Military Health System serve in the military. Civilian nurses are also employed by the military to work in military hospitals, clinics and other facilities caring for service members, retirees, and other eligible beneficiaries.

    “I loved serving this population,” said Dawn Thomas, a registered nurse with more than 20 years of federal service. Thomas first joined the Blanchfield Team in 2002 as a licensed practical nurse, also known as a licensed vocational nurse, after her husband encouraged her to attend nursing school.

    Individuals may complete an accredited practical nursing certificate program through a community college or technical school in about 12 months and begin work as an LPN after passing the National Licensure Examination (NCLEX-PN). The median annual wage for licensed practical and licensed vocational nurses in 2021 was reported by the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics as $48,070.

    Thomas’ first job was in a nursing home, before she came to work at Blanchfield’s Emergency Center. After several years working as an LPN, Thomas returned to school to complete her Bachelor of Science in Nursing, while continuing to work at BACH. After completing her degree, she passed the national exam for licensure as a reregistered nurse.

    Registered nurses have greater responsibility, are more involved in administering medications, treating patients, creating, and coordinating care plans ordered by the doctor and oversee the duties of LPNs and aides. It also has a higher starting salary and more variety. The median annual wage for registered nurses was $77,600 in 2021.

    “You can do anything in nursing. You can do bedside care, you can do management, you can do research. If you are a nurse, it is endless,” said Ashley Hooper, a registered nurse in Blanchfield’s Emergency Center. Hooper is an emergency room nurse and experienced in trauma care.

    “Right after nursing school I worked in a Nashville emergency room for several years. I like the acuity and the excitement,” she said.

    Hooper chose to pursue a career in nursing after she became a young mother and experienced the impact a good nurse can make.

    “I had a labor and delivery nurse who was amazing, and she made me feel very comfortable. I was terrified and she made it a pleasant experience. I wanted to be like her, so I went to nursing school,” said Hooper, adding that nursing also provides good job security.

    “Even during the pandemic, with things being shut down, me being a single parent, I never had to worry about taking care of my family,” added Hooper.

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports job growth is expected across most types of healthcare settings, including hospitals and outpatient care centers that provide same-day services, such as chemotherapy, rehabilitation, and surgery. In addition, because many older people prefer to be treated at home or in residential care facilities, registered nurses will be in demand in those settings.

    “You can diversify and go anyplace,” said U.S. Army Nurse Maj. Chelsi Hennessey, a critical care registered nurse assigned to the 586th Field Hospital on Fort Campbell, Kentucky. She and others in her unit currently work out of Blanchfield, but the Soldiers can deploy on short notice and stand up a portable hospital anywhere in the world the Army needs medical forces.

    During the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Army sent the unit to New York City, where they established a field hospital to help care for patients after the city’s hospitals were overwhelmed.

    “I chose to become an Army nurse because you get to experience things that people may never get to experience. You get to deploy all over the world and make lifelong friends. It’s just a good experience overall,” added Hennessey.

    The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics Occupational Outlook Handbook projects Nurse Practitioners to be the fastest growing occupation over the next eight years. A Nurse Practitioner is a licensed and certified advanced practice registered nurse with a master’s degree or higher in their area of specialty. Their advanced training, which includes certification and clinical hours, enables NPs to diagnose and treat a wide variety of illness, disease, and conditions, similar to a doctor.

    Other APRN fields include clinical nurse specialist, certified nurse midwife, and nurse anesthetist. The median annual wage for nurse anesthetists, nurse midwives, and nurse practitioners in 2021 was $123,780.

    “I would say nursing is a great career choice. There is always going to be a job anywhere that you’d like to move and there are so many opportunities in the nursing field that you have opportunities that you wouldn’t normally have in other career paths,” said McCrary.

    For more information on nursing programs in the Army, visit or speak with a recruiter. Civilian nursing opportunities in the Military Health System can be found at



    Date Taken: 05.03.2023
    Date Posted: 05.03.2023 14:17
    Story ID: 443954
    Location: FORT CAMPBELL, KY, US 

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