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Army nurse recognized with national nursing honor

Image of Military health personnel wearing face mask reviewing a patient's record. Army Lt. Col. DeAnna Hutchings, chief, Critical Care Nursing Services, and Karriemah Munson, assistant clinical nurse officer in charge, 3T Medical Intensive Care Unit, review patient records at Brooke Army Medical Center, Fort Sam Houston, Texas last month. Hutchings was one of only 18 nurses from across the nation -- and the only military nurse -- to receive the 2021 Circle of Excellence award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses for care of acutely and critically ill patients and their families (Photo by: Jason W. Edwards).

An Army nurse has received national recognition for her commitment to critically ill patients and their families in the midst of a global health crisis.

Army Lt. Col. DeAnna Hutchings, Brooke Army Medical Center's chief of critical care, is one of 18 nurses – and the only military nurse – to receive the 2021 Circle of Excellence award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. Hutchings is also one of only two nurses recognized in Texas.

"It's incredibly humbling," she said. "I work with so many amazing medical professionals and support personnel who work incredibly hard and deserve recognition. It's a surreal feeling to be singled out for this honor."

The Circle of Excellence honors nurses who exemplify excellence in high-acuity and critical-care nursing practice, according to the association's release. Hutchings was nominated by her BAMC colleagues: Army Lt. Col. Trisha Bielski, Karriemah Munson and Nadia Perez.

"Lt. Col. Hutchings lays down her heart and soul for the critical care mission at BAMC and the patients we serve," said Munson, assistant clinical nurse officer in charge of 3T. "She is selfless in her care and gives 110 percent daily without reservation. I wish there were more people in the world like her."

Hutchings' leadership agrees. "DeAnna is extremely deserving of this award," said Army Lt. Col. Jody Brown, deputy commander for inpatient services. "A wildly driven and focused leader, DeAnna is dedicated to critical care nursing and wholeheartedly invested in pursuing excellence at all levels. I couldn't be more proud of her accomplishment!"

A self-proclaimed Air Force brat, Hutchings knew she wanted to follow in her father's military footsteps at an early age. However, a career in medicine was not on her radar until she was selected for an ROTC scholarship at the University of Central Arkansas.

"I enjoyed science, but hadn't considered nursing prior," she said. "But it definitely sounded interesting."

After earning her bachelor's degree in nursing, Hutchings's active duty service started in September 2003, as did the start of her long-term service at BAMC.

Upon her commissioning, Hutchings became her family's first female military member and one of her family's first college graduates.

Hutchings' first assignment was at BAMC on ward 2E, "but I was only there for two weeks before I was deployed to Iraq," she said.

Hutchings returned home to serve at the U.S. Army Institute for Surgical Research Burn Center, followed by several months on BAMC's ward 2N. After assignments in Hawaii and Maryland, Hutchings taught for two years at the U.S. Army Medical Center of Excellence prior to returning to BAMC in 2017. The former officer in charge of ward 3T since 2018, Hutchings was selected as chief of critical care in November 2020.

While her stateside assignments offered invaluable experience, Hutchings cites a temporary duty assignment in Rwanda in 2019 as key to her career development. "It is an amazing experience to be able to work in another country's medical facility, share best practices and care for local nationals," she said.

In her current position, Hutchings manages the day-to-day operations for five intensive care units and two progressive care units. "My job is to ensure patient care far exceeds the expectations," she said.

Hutchings also oversees the Rapid Response Program and has served on the COVID-19 working group since the start of the pandemic.

"Long before COVID was here, we knew we had to be prepared for a pandemic, and had proposed to make ward 3S an isolated COVID unit," she said. "It was gratifying to see the plan come to fruition quickly and efficiently and to know that we were ready to react when needed. None of it would have been possible without everyone working together."

After many years at BAMC, Hutchings continues to hold the organization in high esteem.

"I wouldn't want to be anywhere else if I was sick," said the mother of five. "I delivered my children here. My uncle was treated here, and my mom passed away here. The care throughout has been truly exceptional.

"For me, this place isn't just work," she added. "I have awesome coworkers, a great team, and the memories of the people I love are still here. I am honored and proud to serve at BAMC."

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