The Comfort provides an afloat, mobile, acute surgical medical facility to the U.S. military to support expeditionary warfare. The ship also provides full hospital services to support U.S. disaster relief and humanitarian operations worldwide.
Nurses from WRNMMC’s Clinical Nurse Transition Program (CNTP), and members of the Junior Officer Council (JOC) who toured the ship, described it as “a unique and great learning opportunity” to see an environment in which they could one day work.
“As a Soldier, it is not often that I get to see how the Navy operates, especially when out to sea,” said 2nd Lt. Melinda Beyerl, a nurse in the CNTP. “I found the tour to be informative and I loved hearing about what life is like while aboard ship, as well as the different missions and capabilities of the USNS Comfort. It was very interesting to me how much individuals are responsible for, especially when the ship is docked.”
Army 1st Lt. Rory Walton, of the JOC, agreed. “This vessel has history with the Navy, which is neat for Army folks to see and be a part of. Its recent deployment to Haiti [to provide humanitarian support following the 2010 magnitude 7.0 earthquake], and its ‘always ready’ operating status made it a rare chance to experience a new operating environment and logistics. Seeing a hospital vessel was a great learning opportunity, particularly since many of our officers deal with medicine and hospital care.”
Staff and nurses of the 25-week CNTP who participated in the Comfort tour agreed. CNTP is for new nurses with less than six months experience. It focuses on developing their physical assessment skills, providing clinical rotations with assigned preceptors, and monthly didactic seminars with an officer professional development component, explained Army Maj. Janell Pulido, one of two deputy directors for the program. CNTP bridges the nurses’ baccalaureate education and civilian experience with their military nursing practice, added Navy Lt. Maricar Aberin, co-deputy director for CNTP.
“I believe this is an excellent program focused on orienting new graduate registered nurses with minimal clinical experience to the profession of nursing and the U.S. military,” Pulido said. “Our program is structured to provide new nurses with a support system, an integral piece to ensuring their smooth transition as new military nurse corps officers. CNTP also facilitates the development of critical thinking and clinical decision-making skills through clinical experiences, classroom instruction, and other unique learning and officer professional development opportunities.”
Ensign Aline Marques, who has been in the Navy five months and will be assigned to WRNMMC’s hematology/oncology unit once she completes CNTP, agreed. “Being in the CNTP has really helped make my transition to the work environment much easier and less stressful,” she said. “It has helped by providing us with clinical experience, classroom lectures and seminars on a variety of topics related to our work environment and to military culture.”
“I enjoyed the program because it provided me with a diverse understanding of the different nursing opportunities at the command,” said Ensign Kyle Waite, who recently completed CNTP and works in the post-operative care unit at WRNMMC.
2nd Lt. Tara Connolly said she appreciates going through CNTP, which she completes in June with 13 other new registered nurses, because of the camaraderie. “It provides a level of comfort and support when being new and becoming oriented to a new command.”
Connolly, who will be assigned to WRNMMC’s 4 Center ward as a medical surgical nurse working with wounded warriors once she finishes the program, described CNTP as an invaluable experience. “Since I started in December, I have worked on 4 [East] with wounded warriors for four weeks; the medical intensive care unit for a week; 5 [West] hematology/oncology for a week; 3 [Center] telemetry for a week; and 5 [Center] with geriatric and post surgical patients for a week. It is a way to help us be successful nurses.”
Beyerl added, “I am very thankful for the CNTP because it has allowed me to simultaneously ease into nursing, yet also jump in with both feet. The outpatient rotations were helpful in understanding the patient flow in the hospital. I especially appreciated the day spent at the laboratory. The temporary assignment to an inpatient unit was also very beneficial to me. I spent four weeks on 5 West (hematology/oncology) and had numerous opportunities to learn about central lines, ports, chemotherapy, blood transfusions and IV lines in general. Overall, this is a great program.”
CNTP was established by Pulido, CNTP director Cynthia Goldberg, and former co-deputy CNTP director Lt. Cmdr. Bridgette Ferguson following the integration of the former Walter Reed Army Medical Center and former National Naval Medical Center in September 2012. CNTP merged the Navy Internship Program and the Brig. Gen. (retired) Anna Mae Hayes Clinical Nurse Transition Program. More than 400 military nurses from each of the two military services have completed the programs since they were initially established several years ago, Puildo said.
The JOC also supports junior officers across services at WRNMMC, Puildo added. “They support nurses, physicians, other health-care providers and specialties across all services,” she said in explaining their participation in the USNS Comfort tour with the CNTP staff and nurses.
“We represent more than 1,200 officers, and our membership is currently growing as we are a new stand-up organization for this joint service base,” Walton added. He said the JOC meets monthly and any officers O-3 and below can become a member and be afforded “a unique opportunity for camaraderie, mentorship and professional development.”
For more information about the JOC, contact 1st Lt. Roy Walton at firstname.lastname@example.org.