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NEWS | Dec. 21, 2020

Making an Impact on Patients In and Out of Uniform

By (Courtesy article) 3d Medical Command (Deployment Support)

Story featured in the 4th Quarter 2020, Army Nursing Corps Newsletter.  

Capt. Ruthanne Owens is a 66H, Medical Surgical Nurse, with the 228th Combat Support Hospital, currently deployed to Kuwait. Typical for Army Reserve Medical Soldiers, Owens brings both her civilian and military skills to the fight. Transitioning from a civilian critical care staff nurse supporting COVID patients in an Extracorporeal Membrane Oxygenation, Intensive Care Unit to deployment, Owens exemplifies the twice the citizen mentality.

Here is her story, in her words, on providing critical care and why she serves.

I work in the ICU/ICW section and support the goal of the 228th CSH is to provide excellent and safe patient care to every Soldier admitted to the US Military Hospital-Kuwait. I bring my civilian experience as a nurse in multiple hospitals, with exposure to a variety of skills and processes. Being employed in a civilian hospital, the census is always full and the acuity is always high, developing a strong skill greatly benefits this mission in a high acuity patient census scenario.

In Kuwait, we work within the limitations of deployment, but this never deters our mission to provide the best care to our patients. One example, there was a night we received a patient and his condition rapidly deteriorated. Throughout the night we had to call in the provider, respiratory, pharmacy, and radiology. Laboratory was running our labs every four hours and the provider in EMT came to our section to assist with inserting a central line. This was not the only night that we have had to call in multiple sections for help. But every time, each section always responds with a desire to help keep the patient stable. Through the tireless efforts of our MRO and PAD office we were able to coordinate with a partner mission that would fly him out to Landstuhl Regional Medical Center within 36 hours. Through his short time here, staff brought in food from their own care packages. We come together as a team and we face each problem head on. We never give up.

A few months before we deployed I was working at my civilian hospital. I admitted countless patients that came to me on oxygen. They would ask me, between their gasps of breathing, if I thought they were going to make it. I always said, “100%”. Every time I said that, every shift, every night, someone on the ward didn’t make it. So many phone calls to husbands, so many calls to wives. I bore witness to last words more times than I can remember. One of the hardest parts is there were so many, I don’t remember all of them. In fact, most of them I try to forget. Day in and day out, it felt like we were losing.

So why do we keep fighting? Why do we keep trying? I started to wonder if it was fruitless to hope. Maybe it would hurt less if I didn’t. But it’s not in our nature to give up, I think. With every punch that knocks us down, we get up for another. One day, someday, after getting knocked down, we’ll stand up and there won’t be another punch. There will just be us, standing.

It’s a somber story, but it was the mindset that I was in when I came out to Kuwait. I’ll always have a wife’s voice in my head, her last words. Her voice trying not to break as her heart clearly has.

We talk about what it means to put people first. To some in the medical field that means patients. To some in the military setting, that means Soldiers. To me, while we are on this mission, it means the Families. I’m not going to give anyone’s wife or husband the opportunity for last words, they won’t need one. Everyone goes home.

If there is one thing that I have seen, working in different hospitals and on different wards, is that the team makes the ward. The best success stories of sending patients home to their loved ones alive and well has been because of a team effort.

This is the same with working with my fellow 228th CSH Soldiers. I grew up with an intense desire to be where I felt like I was needed and to make a difference. I wanted to have an impact on people’s lives. The job that many people could not, or would not do, was the job that I wanted. Because of this, I strive to always better educate and train myself in the area that I am serving, so that I may provide the best care to get injured Soldiers home.

I am proud to work in my section and for the 228th CSH. Whether it is an emergency or a routine day, we come together, we support each other, and we accomplish the mission.