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EACH celebrates National Nurses Week with a reflection on the pandemic

Image of Military health personnel inputting information into a computer. Army 1st Lt. Lauryn Hudgins, a 627th Hospital Center critical care nurse, inputs patient data July 10, 2020, at Baptist Hospital in San Antonio, Texas, in support of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response (Photo by: Luis A. Deya).

National Nurses' Week occurs every year starting May 6 and ending May 12 with the anniversary of Florence Nightingale's birthday – the founder of modern nursing.

This year, National Nurses’ Week trails behind the one-year mark of COVID-19 operations and has many nurses reflecting on their experiences during the pandemic.

"Nurses' Week is an opportunity to honor and celebrate the art and science of nursing," said Army Maj. Victoria Salas, Evans Army Community Hospital (EACH) chief of nursing services. "It is an opportunity to celebrate the vast contributions nurses deliver in improving patient care and transforming healthcare."

Salas helped establish the Centralized Screening and Testing Center at EACH in March 2020. Over 30,000 COVID-19 tests have been conducted since its opening.

"This was an incredible experience to be a part of and is probably going to be one of the most memorable experiences that I take away," said Salas.

The fight against COVID-19 may have started within the walls of EACH, but several nurses, including Salas, soon answered the call at other locations.

The 627th Hospital Center at Fort Carson was tasked by the Federal Emergency Management Agency to send medical personnel to several locations in support of a Department of Defense COVID-19 response operation.

The 627th HC is comprised of a headquarters responsible for 12 multi-functional medical units capable of world-wide deployment to include a 148-bed field hospital, forward resuscitation surgical detachments, medical logistics company, preventative medicine, veterinary and optometry detachments.

Military personnel wearing face mask talking Army Lt. Gen. Raymond Dingle, surgeon general of the U.S. Army (left), and Army Command Sgt. Maj. Diamond Hough, command sergeant major of the U.S. Army Medical Command (right) visit 627th Hospital Center soldiers providing medical support at BB&T Pavilion in Camden, New Jersey, in support of the Department of Defense COVID-19 response March 18, 2021 (Photo by: Marine Corps Lance Cpl. Zachary Zephir, Combat Logistics Battalion 22).

"As one of the largest and most deployed hospital centers during the pandemic, the (627th HC) has deployed five times in support of U.S. Army North and FEMA, supporting the American people across four different states," said Army Col. Hope Williamson-Younce, 627th HC commander. "The nurses deployed with the 627th Hospital Center's Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force (UAMTF)."

The UAMTF was tasked to support DOD COVID-19 operations in Seattle, Washington; San Antonio, Texas; Camden, New Jersey and Riverside, California.

Army Capt. Joseph Hargrave, the EACH Post Anesthesia Care Unit clinical nurse officer in charge, deployed three times with the 627th HC during this past year.

"San Antonio was the first mission (I had) where military personnel fell in on civilian hospitals and their staff," said Hargrave. "I was assigned to a 60-bed medical/surgical floor that was all COVID-19."

Hargrave was assigned three patients per shift in Texas and five patients per shift in California. He worked four, 12-hour shifts a week while on assignment in both locations.

"During both the San Antonio and Riverside deployments, staff and patients were extremely appreciative of our presence," said Hargrave.

Department of Inpatient Services Clinical Nurse Specialist at EACH, Army Maj. Wendy Hamilton, volunteered to recognize the nursing staff and build esprit de corps within the profession as this year's Nurses' Week chair.

"We have been meeting monthly (since October) to plan fundraising events as well activities for Nurses' Week," said Hamilton. "Our committee was dedicated to offering a wide spread of activities, at a variety of times, to hopefully encompass all of our nursing staff."

The week began with an opening ceremony on Thursday and will end with a closing ceremony Wednesday. The activities planned for the week include a scavenger hunt, meditation classes and a nursing Olympics event.

"Nurses are our tireless frontline heroes," said Hamilton. "They bring compassion and personal touch to medical care and they deserve to know that they make a difference."

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