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Nurses Make a Profound Difference in Military Health

Image of Nurses Make a Profound Difference in Military Health. U.S. Air Force Col. Gwendolyn Foster, Director of Staff for the U.S. Air Force Surgeon General; Defense Health Agency Chief Nursing Officer Dr. Kristen Atterbury; U.S. Navy CAPT Alison Castro Deputy Corps Chief of the Navy Nurse Corps; and U.S. Army COL Jodelle Schroeder, Deputy Corps Chief of the U.S. Army Nurse Corps, cut the cake during a celebration of nurses at Defense Health Headquarters in honor of National Nurses Week on May 10, 2024. (Photo: Robert Hammer, MHS Communications)

“We see you. We see everything you do. We don't always stop to say ‘thank you,’ but we understand that without you, we cannot care for people the way they deserve,” said U.S. Air Force Chief Master Sgt. Tanya Johnson, the Defense Health Agency’s Senior Enlisted Leader, in her opening remarks at a DHA event recognizing National Nurses Week.

The celebration for nurses was held May 10, 2024, at Defense Health Headquarters in Falls Church, Virginia.

Johnson spoke about the profound impact nurses had on her life and her family.

“I was born into the Military Health System, to an Air Force medic, and every time we went to a new base, every time my father got a new assignment, he would introduce me to his team—the clinical nursing team,” said Johnson.

“Watching them care for people and seeing how they handled that care with grace, showed me what medicine looked like,” she added.

Johnson addressed nurses directly saying, “I thought about all the times in my life when you guys made a difference. The time I had my son … and a nurse came in to help me wash my hair and get through those moments of being a new mother. The time I got the phone call telling me my mom had passed—the team at Wright Patterson came to my house in a snowstorm to sit with me. If you ever find yourself doubting the value you bring to somebody’s life, know that I stayed in military medicine for 30 years because of people like you.”

Celebrating Remarkable Contributions

Dr. Debbie Hatmaker, the Chief Nursing Officer and acting Chief Executive Officer with the American Nurses Association Enterprise, shared her insights on the significance of nurses in the health care system.

“I want to celebrate you and the remarkable contributions you bring to the profession,” said Hatmaker.

She highlighted the important role nurses play in delivering exceptional care under difficult circumstances.

“Your commitment and resilience exemplify the highest ideals of our profession,” Hatmaker said. “The demand and rigor of the nursing profession can test us. But our commitment to deliver care to all ages, races, and across every lived experience and community remains at our core as nurses.”

Hatmaker focused on the power of nurses as they navigate the current state of health care.

“We are relentless advocates, ensuring patients’ voices are heard and their rights respected,” Hatmaker continued. “Through leadership and innovation, nurses drive quality improvement and pioneer advancement in health care. Nurses are educators empowering individuals with knowledge to make informed health decisions.”

“You are making the difference, not just this week, but every day.”

New Nursing Excellence Awards Presented During Celebration

The event closed with an awards presentation by Dr. Kristen Atterbury, DHA’s newly named Chief Nursing Officer.

Atterbury said, “I'm honored to serve as the DHA’s Chief Nursing Officer and humbled by the opportunity to share with you this celebration of Nurses Week—the profession and practice of nursing.”

Atterbury presented nursing excellence awards to:

  • Safety and Quality: Ms. Erica Walker, RN, Reynolds Army Health Clinic, Fort Sill, Oklahoma, Defense Health Network West
  • Patient Care: U.S. Air Force Capt. Catherine Vongxay, 60th Medical Group, Travis Air Force Base, California, Defense Health Network Central
  • Healthy Work Environment: U.S. Army LTC Nicole Johnson, Madigan Army Medical Center, Joint Base Lewis-McChord, Washington, Defense Health Network Indo-Pacific
  • Evidence-Based Practice: U.S. Air Force Maj Brian Rottweiler, 81st Medical Group, Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, Defense Health Network Central

For more about the history of nurses in the military, check out this interactive timeline. And learn more about nurses and nursing in the Military Health System.

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Last Updated: June 11, 2024
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