Nursing in the U.S. Army: Interview with Maj. Leonardo Pascual, Jr., RN, BSN

My Specialty

Nursing in the U.S. Army: Interview with Maj. Leonardo Pascual, Jr., RN, BSN

Serving your country by providing medical care to the troops

By Keith Carlson, RN, BSN
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What is your nursing position within the Army service?
Healthcare recruiter for the 6th Medical Recruiting Battalion and an operating room nurse (area of concentration 66E, perioperative nurse).

Can you tell us more about being a healthcare recruiter for the Army?
Army Nurse Corps officers can serve in many job descriptions, either clinical or administrative. The Army Nurse Corps ensures that the soldier-nurses are proficient in nursing skills and leadership skills. I am fortunate as an operating room nurse to have served as company commander at Tripler Army Medical Center, aide-de-camp (general’s aide) and currently as a healthcare recruiter in Southern California.

As an AMEDD (Army Medical Department) recruiting officer and nurse, I serve as the officer in charge of the Santa Ana Medical Recruiting Station. We are responsible for recruiting healthcare professionals into the Army Medical Command in an area encompassing over 29,000 square miles. Also, I serve as the subject matter expert (SME) on Army Nurse Corps recruiting to the company commander of the Los Angeles Medical Recruiting Company.

I maintain contact with the staffs of local medical Troop Program Units (TPUs), hospitals, health science universities, healthcare providers and professional organizations. Due to our geographical location here in Southern California, our company (Los Angeles Medical Recruiting Company) has a total of four medical recruiting stations to better assist our applicants. Nurses have the option to join the U.S. Army on active duty (full time) or reserve status (part time).

Tell us about the Army’s healthcare scholarships.

The U.S. Army Medical Command looks for qualified physicians, dentists, clinical psychologists, nurses and physical therapists, as well as physician’s assistants, occupational therapists, social workers and those who are in their medical residency programs.

The U.S. Army offers some of the most generous and comprehensive scholarships available in healthcare today. The program is called the F. Edward Hébert Armed Forces Health Professions Scholarship Program (HPSP). If you want to become a physician, dentist, veterinarian, optometrist, clinical or counseling psychologist — and if you qualify — you can earn a full-tuition scholarship, plus a monthly stipend of $2,000 or more.

How did you come to serve as an Army nurse?
I always wanted to serve my country as a soldier. One of the Army programs afforded me the opportunity to complete my BSN in a civilian school while on active duty; I earned my BSN from Pacific Lutheran University. Now, I have the opportunity to earn advanced nursing degrees while continuing to serve as an officer in the U.S. Army.

Please share with us a challenge of being in the Army.
As an active duty officer, I face deployment and relocation every three years to a different army duty station. I’ve deployed in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom and Operations Desert Shield and Desert Storm. My family has adjusted to the lifestyle fairly well and we’re looking forward to our next move, believe it or not.

What else can you share with our readers about being a nurse in the Army?

You gain the clinical and leadership skills that make you a complete nurse. Also, there are many opportunities for advancement and you have the chance to complete your master’s degree and Ph.D. while on active duty. More than 90 percent of Army nurses have a master’s degree or a Ph.D. and some choose to earn a doctor of nursing practice (DNP) degree. The Army also has its own nurse researchers and other nurse specialists.

In terms of continuing education and advancement, I’ve been able to attend many leadership courses, like courses in head nurse leadership, combat casualty care, trauma nurse care, etc. I’ll be able to retire in 20 years with full benefits. I love to be able to serve both clinically and administratively. With the experience and training that the Army has provided me, I’m able to function in various capacities, adapting confidently to my job as an Army Nurse Corps officer. Like I said, we’re multitaskers.

What is it like to perform as a nurse on the battlefield?
When I was in Iraq for a year, I served as an operating room nurse in a combat support hospital. This is the first definitive care that a wounded soldier receives after receiving first aid and being stabilized on the battlefield. Battlefield nursing has come a long way, and we provide excellent care before the wounded are forwarded to our hospitals in Germany or here in the United States.

Is the Army up to date on healthcare technology?
Yes! Our healthcare system uses the most sophisticated modern technology. Consultation with recognized experts from both military and civilian practice is an integral part of patient care. This is a highly professional and challenging medical environment. The Army offers a multitude of opportunities for professional growth, including serving as faculty in one of our graduate medical education programs, which are some of the finest in the country.

How do you care for burn patients in combat support hospitals?
We did see a lot of burns while I was in the combat zone and we cared for our burn patients in the operating room. We have designated ICUs that we use for burn victims and we can separate out burn patients as needed. Our U.S. soldiers are then transferred to CONUS (Continental United States) or Germany for further care.

How do you handle the stress of treating battle-related trauma?

We have Army psychiatrists who debrief the staff after every mass casualty. Personally, I handle it by blocking it off and treating each casualty just like someone I would see at home in our military treatment facility. We treat all casualties the same way as they come into our operating room.

I have great support from my family and friends. We talk about it, but I don’t hold onto it like a bad experience or a traumatic memory. What we see on the battlefield is unlike what you might see at home in a trauma hospital. While you might see a gunshot wound or stabbing in an ER in L.A., for example, the wounds we see in battle are totally different — often once-in-a-lifetime experiences for a clinician. We see these as very unique learning experiences for us, and that learning assists us in helping the next soldier who has a similar wound or condition.

What are your broader career plans?
I’ll attend intermediate-level education (ILE) to be competitive for the next promotion to lieutenant colonel. Clinically, I’m happy with my current status, but I may return to school in order to pursue my master’s degree as a family nurse practitioner (FNP). The Army has a program for long-term health education training for their Army Nurse Corps officers.

What about your work drives you and feeds your spirit?
It’s a privilege to be able to help my fellow soldiers and make a difference when they’re in situations of trauma or crisis. It’s also an honor to serve our country when I’m most needed, especially in times of war.  


Keith Carlson, RN, BSN, has worked as a nurse since 1996 and maintained the popular nursing blog Digital Doorway since 2005. He offers expert professional coaching for nurses and nursing students at www.nursekeith.com.

This article is from workingnurse.com.

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