U.S. Army nurse Tara Spears stitches a soldier’s finger in a field hospital in Iraq,
where she served a three-month tour. Spears is now working on her master’s
degree at U.Va.’s School of Nursing.
By Matt Kelly
A combat field hospital is similar to a standard hospital — with a major exception.
“In combat you see more gunshot and shrapnel wounds,” said Army nurse Capt.
Tara O. Spears, after serving three months in Iraq and Kuwait with the 86th
Combat Support Hospital.
Her patients included a 5-month-old girl whose Arabic name translated to Flower.
She had suffered shrapnel and burn wounds to her legs, received in an incident
that killed her mother. “We took her in and made a makeshift crib for her out of
a medical supply chest,” said Spears, a 13-year Army veteran. “We kept her and
took care of her legs.
Finally her aunt was found and she would stay with her and actually breast-feed
her.” After the wounds healed, Flower went home with her father.
“That was a nice, happy thing,” Spears said.
Spears, 35, a nurse in a 144-bed Army field hospital, will now incorporate her
wartime medical experience into her pursuit of a master’s degree from the U.Va.
School of Nursing as an acute care clinical nurse specialist with an emphasis in
emergency nursing. She said her experience will help her in class, and her
advanced degree will help her in future deployments.
Experienced nurses return to school so they can provide leadership, consultation
and education in their workplace, said Arlene W. Keeling, director of the U.Va.
Acute Care Nurse Practitioner program, which upgrades nurses’ skills.
“We take them a step further,” said Keeling. “We keep them in direct
practitioner roles with higher clinical decision-making.” Attracted by the speed
and efficiency of emergency medicine, Spears also understands its limitations.
“I like being able to work with a team to help someone get better and being able
to see the results of what I do quickly,” she said. “Unfortunately, people don’t
make it sometimes, and that is hard. But you have to keep going.”
She treated a 13-year-old girl burned from the waist down when the kerosene
stove she was lighting exploded. She had gone a week without treatment when she
was brought to Spears’ facility.
“We amputated her legs just below the hip to save her, but the infection had
already gotten into her system. No matter what we gave her, it didn’t help,”
Spears said. “She died a couple of weeks after she got to us.”
Treating Iraqis, while having no experience with their culture or language, has
given Spears an appreciation of diversity.
“In class, when we talk about cultural diversity and certain cultural aspects of
nursing care, I understand a little better because I actually had to deal with it,”
she said. “And this was the first time I had experienced that, plus the language
In Iraq, which was Spears’ first combat experience, she treated everything from
splinters to razor wire cuts to bullet and shrapnel wounds to tank tread injuries.
“Anytime any of those soldiers came in sick or hurt, I felt like it was part of my
family and I would do everything I could to help them,” Spears said.
“Capt. Spears is at her best when it counts,” said Lt. Col. Elizabeth McGraw,
acting chief nurse of the 86th Combat Support Hospital, who served with Spears in
Kuwait. “During numerous mass casualty situations she could be counted on to
perform with professionalism and tact.”It was the land outside the hospital that
gave Spears pause.
“It’s sand, sand and more sand,” she said. “I have never seen such a desolate
place. It was well above 120 degrees in the shade, and the sand gets into
Spears endured frequent alerts for Scud missile attacks, and often the field
hospital was sealed against possible chemical attacks.
“We realized really quick that this wasn’t training any more, this was the real
thing,” she said. “But the training that the Army gave us had us prepared to do
what needed to be done.”
The soldiers took breaks when they could, reading, pitching horseshoes, playing
football, watching Fox News and having an occasional barbecue.
“We made our own fun,” she said. “Everything was so stressful all the time,
almost a constant influx of patients, all of our beds were pretty full, and on top of
the normal hospital busy-ness, we had alerts that put more stress on us.”
Despite personal privations, Spears had positive contact with the Iraqis.
“The people and their gratitude for what we were doing [surprised me],” Spears
said. “Most of the Iraqis that I dealt with, the enemy prisoners of war and the
civilians both, were so grateful to us for what we were trying to do over there.”
The Army also worked with Iraqis to restore their hospitals, so civilians could be
moved back into them.
“From the medical aspect, they were really grateful because the hospitals were
nonexistent,” she said. “The building was there, there was some staff there, but
they had hardly any medical supplies.”
Spears clings to her memories of Iraq.
“I try to hold on to all of them,” she said. “Those that are happy, like that little
girl, Flower. We helped her get well, we helped her get back with some family.
And the sad ones, as well, because both teach you things.”
Navy Lieutenant Jody Shepard ’96
Shock Trauma Platoon 7'sResuscitation Team (above) —
including Jody Shepard ’96 — stand outside their
ambulance waiting to embark on a trip of their lives.
This Is A Great Story About Our Military Nurses In War.
Nursing Care On The Battlefield
Trauma care always evolves in war. And so does combat health support. Both change
because the nature of warfare and the battlefield itself change. In Iraq, we’ve
learned many lessons that have lead to major advances in military and civilian
trauma care and to many important changes in combat health support.
Today, the battlefields in Iraq and Afghanistan are characterized by quick military
operations, increased mobility and dispersion of the units, flexible and rapid task
organization, and geographically extended lines of communication. On those
battlefields, we practice life- and limb-saving surgery in an austere environment
without the high technology available in a civilian intensive care unit (ICU). That’s
why U.S. Army critical care nurses need not only top-notch nursing knowledge and
skills, but also an ability to adapt to circumstances and environment.
Read More At: http://www.americannursetoday.com/Article.aspx?id=5138&fid=5120
Capt. Michelle Racicot, RN, BSN, CEN, wanted to be the perfect Army nurse — a
tough soldier as well as a skilled trauma RN. As a member of a forward surgical
team in Afghanistan last year, she was an expert in assessing and stabilizing soldiers
with devastating wounds. She trained medics, taught a Polish medical team to care
for fresh trauma, and coped with the constant infusion of adrenaline priming her
body for action. To keep the stress in check, she exercised relentlessly and cried in
Read More At:
War on the Mind, Part 1: Nurses Deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan struggle with PTSD
2003 Invasion Of Iraq
U.S. Army M1A1 Abrams tanks and their crews pose for
a photo in front of the "Hands of Victory" monument at
Baghdad's Ceremony Square in November 2003.
The 2003 invasion of Iraq lasted from 19 March 2003 to 1 May 2003 and
signaled the start of the conflict that later came to be known as the Iraq
War, which was dubbed Operation Iraqi Freedom by the United States
(prior to 19 March, the mission in Iraq was called Operation Enduring
Freedom, a carryover from the conflict in Afghanistan). The invasion
consisted of 21 days of major combat operations, in which a combined
force of troops from the United States, the United Kingdom, Australia,
and Poland, invaded Iraq and deposed the Ba'athist government of
Saddam Hussein. The invasion phase consisted primarily of a
conventionally-fought war which concluded with the capture of the Iraqi
capital of Baghdad by American forces.
Taken From Wikipedia
Read MoreOn Wikipedia :
overview of the iraqi War
Explosions illuminating the skies of Baghdad during the U.S.-led air bombardment of the city, March 2003.
Credit: Ramzi Haidar—AFP/Getty Images
Keith Bodine/Website Owner
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