Back to Top Skip to main content

Best job in military health? For these men, it’s nursing

Nurse Manny Santiago (right) with retired Marine Corps Sgt. Carlos Evans in October at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Santiago said he “had the privilege of taking care of this young man” after Evans stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in May 2010 during his fourth combat deployment. The two men discovered they’re both from the same hometown in Puerto Rico. (Courtesy photo) Nurse Manny Santiago (right) with retired Marine Corps Sgt. Carlos Evans in October at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland. Santiago said he “had the privilege of taking care of this young man” after Evans stepped on an improvised explosive device in Afghanistan in May 2010 during his fourth combat deployment. The two men discovered they’re both from the same hometown in Puerto Rico. (Courtesy photo)

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

FALLS CHURCH, Va. — Women dominate the nursing profession, but retired Navy Lt. Cmdr. Manny Santiago is quick to point out some historical exceptions.

“Men have been nursing for centuries,” said Santiago, a critical nurse specialist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

He cites Camillus de Lellis, the 16th century priest in Italy who founded a religious order dedicated to caring for the sick, and Walt Whitman. The 19th century poet already was well-known for Leaves of Grass when he tended to soldiers in hospitals during and after the Civil War.

As for modern-day exceptions, there’s Santiago – and about 4,400 other men, or 28 percent of the approximately 17,500 active-duty, reserve, and civilian nurses in the Military Health System, according to recent Department of Defense data. In comparison, data suggests that only about 11 percent of all nurses outside of MHS are men.

“Nursing is such a great career field,” said Air Force Capt. Sam Cash, a registered nurse in the Post Anesthesia Care Unit at Malcolm Grow Hospital, Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland.

“The whole mindset that it’s a female profession – I think that’s going by the wayside,” Cash said. “More and more men are coming into the field. Times are changing.”

Cash became a nurse through the Air Force’s Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program. “I was in a class of 40 people, and four of us were guys,” he said.

He already had 12 years of service as a ground radio operator; bachelor’s and master’s degrees in business administration; and some pre-med course credits from a community college near Scott Air Force Base, Illinois.

“I know I kind of stumbled into nursing,” said Cash, who completed a bachelor’s in nursing in December 2009. “All I knew is that I wanted to be an officer, and I wanted to be in the medical field. But honestly, I know being a nurse is the best job in the military. There are all these different avenues you can take.”

Santiago also earned a bachelor’s in nursing through the military. He enlisted in the Navy in 1985, a few credits shy of a bachelor’s in marine biology from a college in his native Puerto Rico. After serving six years as a hospital corpsman, Santiago was accepted into the Navy’s Medical Enlisted Commissioning Program.

He finished in 1992 and spent another 18 years in uniform as an emergency room nurse. Along the way, he earned a master’s in nursing with concentrations in critical care, acute care, and trauma.

After retiring from the Navy in 2009, Santiago became a civilian nurse in the Wounded Warrior Unit at what’s now Walter Reed-Bethesda. He’s personally mentored and coached more than 2,000 staff members in the classroom and at hospital bedsides, according to the citation accompanying his 2017 Senior Civilian Nursing Award from the MHS.

Guillermo “Bill” Leal Jr. is a nurse case manager at the Warrior Transition Unit at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, in San Antonio, Texas.

“I know the Army, I know nursing, and I know people,” said Leal, who became a nurse after retiring from the Army in 1994 as a master sergeant. “I don’t think there’s any other job better for me anywhere else than to be a nurse in the WTU.”

Leal enlisted in 1974 and started as a supply clerk before “following in my dad’s footsteps” and becoming a combat medic. After retiring, he used the GI Bill to earn accreditation as a licensed vocational nurse, and later enrolled in a two-year registered nurse program. He’s been at the WTU for about eight years.

Leal, Cash, and Santiago all said family members of patients sometimes confuse them for physicians. And back when Cash was in nursing school and doing a labor and delivery rotation, an older civilian nurse was overheard saying she didn’t think it was appropriate for him to be in the room while a woman was giving birth – though apparently that nurse didn’t have a problem with the male obstetrician being present.

Leal, Cash, and Santiago are simply three men in roles that many people are accustomed to seeing women fill.

“If there’s a guy who’s thinking about nursing, I think he should definitely go for it,” Cash said. “Nursing is such a great career field. It’s so broad. At the core of it, if you enjoy helping people, then you should go into nursing.”

Adds Santiago:  “Male nurses are still a minority, but we’re a very proud minority. We bring a different perspective because men are wired a little differently than females – right? So I think our contributions are very important.”


You also may be interested in...

Dr. Cordts welcomes regional coordinators to training

Article
5/13/2019
Dr. Paul Cordts, Deputy Assistant Director for Medical Affairs, addressed coordinators from the Recovery Coordination Program during annual training. (Courtesy photo)

Programs and organizations that build relationships for service members and caregivers are critical

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Breaking the pain cycle

Article
4/9/2019
Ashley Blake, an acupuncture nurse at Naval Hospital Pensacola’s Pain Management Clinic, treats a patient with Battlefield Acupuncture (BFA), one of many opioid alternatives offered at many treatment facilities in the Military Health System. BFA consists of inserting five tiny and sterile 2 mm needles into specific points of the ear where they can remain for up to three days. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 1st Class Brannon Deugan)

Live in agony or risk addiction? MHS pain management initiatives offer options

Recommended Content:

Prescription Monitoring Program | Mental Wellness | Mental Health Care | Substance Abuse | Physical Disability | Warrior Care | Opioid Safety | Pain Management

Fourth annual Warrior Care in the 21st Century Symposium forges path ahead

Article
1/4/2019
Mr. Bret Stevens, director of disability evaluation systems, DoD Health Services Policy and Oversight and United States WC21 co-chair (left), Air Vice-Marshal Tracy Smart, surgeon general, Australian Defence Force (center), and Air Commodore Rich Withnall, United Kingdom WC21 co-chair (right) pose for a photo. Senior representatives from 11 nations discussed warrior care challenges, lessons learned, and innovations during this year’s event. (Photo courtesy from the Australian Defence Force)

The WC21 coalition facilitates global sharing of best practices and lessons learned in medical and non-medical military health care

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Resiliency as part of the healing process

Article
11/21/2018
Caleb Jones tunes a guitar before taking part in the music session with Rock to Recovery. The music workshop is part of a holistic healing approach meant to be part of a restorative care approach for long-term success in recovery and resiliency. The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program is celebrating Warrior Care Month during the 2018 NE Central Warrior CARE Event at Joint Base Andrews, Maryland, and the National Harbor. The annual recognition showcases the military services programs for caring for wounded, ill, and injured service men and women and their families. (U.S. Air Force photo by Shawn Sprayberry).

The Air Force Wounded Warrior Program kicked off its Northeast Region Warrior CARE Event at the National Harbor

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

There is help for anyone caring for a service member

Article
11/19/2018
PEER Forums are available to anyone caring for a wounded, ill or injured service member and are not restricted to family members. (Courtesy graphic)

PEER Forums provide military caregivers a forum to share experiences and provide each other support

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Labyrinth: This path is made for mindful walking

Article
9/27/2018
Wounded warriors at the National Intrepid Center of Excellence are introduced to the indoor labyrinth during early days of their four-week intensive outpatient treatment program. (Photo courtesy of NICoE)

NICoE uses ancient symbol to promote healing

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care | Traumatic Brain Injury | Cognitive Rehabilitation Therapy

Soldier amputees have options for continued service

Article
9/17/2018
Army Col. Todd R. Wood, commander of the 1st Stryker Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division, administers the oath of re-enlistment to Army Staff Sgt. Brian Beem, left, then a cavalry scout assigned to the 5th Squadron, 1st Cavalry Regiment, at Forward Operating Base Frontenac, Afghanistan, Nov. 9, 2011. Beem is a single-leg amputee who was able to continue to serve despite his injury. He lost his leg after an improvised explosive device detonated during his 2006 deployment to Iraq. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Thomas Duval)

The will to serve alone is not enough to overcome the severity of their injury

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

All in with medical support during Warrior Games

Article
6/5/2018
About 60 medical professionals in the Military Health System have volunteered to work at the DoD Warrior Games to support competitors including Army 1st Sgt. Jay Collins (above), who's scheduled to run, cycle, and row - among other events - as a member of the U.S. Special Operations Command team. (Photo courtesy USSOCOM Office of Communication)

Altitude will be latest challenge for athletes

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Second lady Karen Pence advocates art therapy for wounded warriors

Article
2/8/2018
Second Lady Karen Pence (right), speaks with Army Col. David Gibson, commander of the Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center, during a roundtable discussion about the National Intrepid Center of Excellence Satellite Center's art therapy program at Fort Hood, Texas. Pence has been touring Creative Forces Military Healing Arts networks at military facilities as part of her advocacy for the use of art therapy to help heal service members suffering from traumatic brain injury and post-traumatic stress. (U.S. Army photo by Patricia Deal)

Pence's passion is driven by the human and scientific evidence of art therapy's healing properties

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Year in Review: Innovations aid warfighters, families

Article
12/26/2017
Blue light produced by smartphones and computer monitors interferes with the brain’s production of melatonin, the hormone that makes people sleepy. The Navy’s Bureau of Medicine is working on lens tinting to block blue light and enhance the sleep of service members. MHS announced this innovation among many others in 2017. (U.S. Air Force photo by Greg L. Davis)

MHS explores world-class solutions for beneficiaries

Recommended Content:

Military Health System Electronic Health Record | MHS GENESIS | Warrior Care | Medical Research and Development

2017 Year in Review: Places where Military Health System leaders, experts gathered

Article
12/21/2017
Navy Vice Adm. Raquel Bono, director, Defense Health Agency, speaks at the Defense Health Information Technology Symposium, July 25, in Orlando, Florida. Conferences like this one help MHS and other health care personnel to exchange ideas and information to help improve care to beneficiaries. (Courtesy photo)

Conferences offer opportunities to focus on the best health care for beneficiaries

Recommended Content:

Innovation | Military Health System Electronic Health Record | MHS GENESIS | Extremity Trauma and Amputation Center of Excellence | Warrior Care

Invisible wound, visible effects: TBIs need medical help – and the sooner, the better

Article
12/13/2017
Traumatic brain injuries can happen anywhere. Regardless of how or when, all TBIs need medical attention, experts warn. (Photo courtesy of Walter Reed National Military Medical Center)

The road to recovery for a traumatic brain injury starts with an evaluation. Regardless of severity or cause, all TBIs require medical attention, experts warn.

Recommended Content:

Traumatic Brain Injury | Warrior Care

Invisible Wounds, Invisible Care

Infographic
12/8/2017
Invisible Wounds, Visible Care: A Road to Care and Recovery. 1. Seek Care: Are yo or someone you know showing symptoms of an invisible wound? Seek care early and often. Many resources are available to support you and your family. 2. Receive Care: Connect with medical and non-medical services that will assist you throughout the care process, help you build a care management team, and support your recovery. 3. Continued Care: Continue recovery while reintegrating into your unit or transitioning into civilian life.

This infographic outlines the Air Force Invisible Wounds Initiative and offers a list of resources for wounded warriors and their families.

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care

Osseointegration

Video
12/8/2017
Osseointegration

Doctors at the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland, are adapting technology developed in Europe called Osseointegration. The technology allows the attachment of prosthetics directly to a patient's skeleton.

Recommended Content:

Extremities Loss | Warrior Care

Community, innovative collaborations are themes at third annual International Warrior Care Symposium

Article
12/6/2017
Air Commodore Rich Withnall, United Kingdom WC21 co-chair (left), Harjit Sajjan, Canada’s minister of national defence (center left), Dr. Dorothy Narvaez-Woods, special assistant to the assistant secretary of defense for health affairs (center right), and Mr. Bret Stevens, U.S. WC21 co-chair (right) pose for a photo following Minister Sajjan’s  keynote address. Senior representatives from 14 attending nations discussed their nations’ strategic priorities for warrior care. (Canadian Armed Forces photo by Corporal Lisa Fenton)

Community, innovative collaborations are themes at International Warrior Care Symposium

Recommended Content:

Warrior Care
<< < 1 2 3 4 5 > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 5

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing; Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.