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Daughter of Mexican immigrants excels as Navy nurse

Image of Military health personnel posing for a picture. Navy Lt. Karen Jimenez Gudino is a registered nurse at the Naval Hospital Twentynine Palms, Emergency Department, Marine Corps Combat Development Command Twentynine Palms in California, which serves Marines and sailors alike.

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Navy Lt. Karen Jimenez Gudino, is not only a registered nurse in the Naval Hospital Twentynine Palms (NHTP) Emergency Department at the Marine Corps Combat Development Command Twentynine Palms in California, she's also the daughter of Mexican immigrants.

They didn't possess strong language skills, but they did possess a sense of ambition for their children and a desire to raise them in the land of opportunity, Gudino explained.

Gudino became interested in healthcare from a nursing program in high school. "Once you complete your first semester of nursing school, you can stand for that board and you can work as a certified nursing assistant in a hospital," she said. During high school she worked in a nursing home. "It was really rewarding being able to help people and save lives," she said. Also during high school, she was in the chess club for four years and served as its president during her senior year. "I'm known as the chess master in the emergency department," she noted.

Gudino earned her registered nursing degree, with a minor in Naval Science, from the University of Arizona through an ROTC scholarship. "It was good training," she said. "It was four years of keeping me in shape and giving me military training that continues to benefit me to this day."

Already with a military predisposition, she looked into pursuing a career in the Navy. "Honestly, when I looked into Navy nursing and what it entailed, I saw big old hospital ships; I saw Navy medicine promoted as the best and the brightest – it just really called to me," she said. "Being part of missions, being able to provide for our active-duty service members – it was a natural choice."

She was commissioned into the Navy in May of 2016, and assigned to Naval Medical Center Portsmouth in Virginia. Soon after she had one of her ambitions fulfilled, when she was assigned to one of those "big old hospital ships," the USNS Comfort. During her deployment aboard the Comfort from Oct to Dec 2018, she got to visit Colombia, Ecuador, Peru and Honduras.as part of Enduring Promise 2018.

"I think it was probably the most rewarding thing I've done in the Navy," she said. "There was this one case where I think if it wasn't for us this one little boy probably would have lost his leg. He had a really infected joint and I was part of the team that helped teach the local hospital how to care for his peripherally inserted catheter. Our interdisciplinary team shared our wealth of knowledge and it was hugely rewarding."

Gudino has been at NHTP since August 2019. She said she's taking her future one command at a time. "I just want to take advantage of the many opportunities that the Navy has to offer, whether that's going on another ship or going greenside and getting to do things that as a civilian nurse I wouldn't get to do," she said.

For hobbies, she enjoys hiking in Joshua Tree National Park; and playing tennis and chess.

She's the first in her family to enter the military but she's not the last. "My brother is following my lead," she said. "Of course he had to one up me. He's currently finishing his final year at the Naval Academy."

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Last Updated: January 17, 2023
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