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Q&A with Military Nurse, Noreen Diedo


BestNursingDegree.com interviews military nurse, Noreen Diedo. Diedo has been in military nursing for almost 30 years and is the commander of 4203rd US Army Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee. She is currently finishing her Doctor of Nursing Practice degree.In the video she discusses her career and how to decide if military nursing is right for you.




Q: What is your current position?

My name is Noreen Kay Diedo and I am a nurse practitioner. And, in the military I am the commander of the 4203rd US Army Hospital in Nashville, Tennessee.

Q: How did you get started in military nursing?

Well I would say there was a strong parental influence in both directions when I was growing up. My father was a reservist for many years. He was a combat medic, and he was also in the Air Force. He flew in the 45th aero-med evacuation squadron out of Southbridge, Michigan.

My mother had always wanted to be a nurse, and I guess between that and growing up watching all those television shows like Marcus Welby and General Hospital, I thought I could see myself as a nurse.

I had always been attracted to wearing a uniform, and nurses wear uniforms and so do soldiers, so that seemed to be a fit. As a young child, I would take my animals and treat them like they were my patients, and I'd have a little clinic set up.

Q: What kind of education was required for your role?

When I joined the reserves in 1984, all I needed was a two-year associate degree in nursing, which I had, and one year of medical surgical experience, which I had.

Now to become a reservist you have to have a BSN in nursing. As I carried on in my career path in the military, I went back to school.

I got my bachelor's degree, and then I got my master's degree. The military paid for that, which was a wonderful thing. This month, I will graduate with my Doctorate in Nursing Practice.

Q: What challenges did you face?

I would say early on in my career when I was a new nurse--I was probably 21 years old--I didn't have a lot of life experiences. In my first job, I had asked to be put into a role where I would get a lot of experience. They assigned me to an oncology unit, a cancer unit, and it was a 42 or 44 bed unit. I obtained a lot of working experience in that area.

It was very, very hard work. And, I clearly remember coming home early in my career with total exhaustion. I was on my feet all day, the patients were very, very sick. And back then, when you had a diagnosis of cancer, it meant that you were going to die. We had three or four patients dying a night.

It was very hard as a young person who hadn't been through a lot of life experiences to deal with that and to be responsible for managing those kinds of things.

It was a very, very tough position very early on in my adulthood. And, I did get burned out quite quickly. About a year into it, it was like, "I can't do this anymore" and I questioned whether I had made the right career move.

Q: What would you say to someone considering military nursing?

Well, I would say don't make that decision lightly. Nowadays, when you sign on the dotted line, you know at some point in your career you're going to mobilize; it's just going to happen.

It hasn't happened for me. I'm probably the last surviving career reservist. Not to say that it wont happen, but I've been in 27 years and I haven't been mobilized yet, and I'm due to retire in 2014.

But that's not what the new soldiers coming on are told. They will likely mobilize. They need to make sure that the family is aware. You need to have a good family care plan in the event that you are mobilized.

Q: What traits are required for nursing?

Well, you have to be empathic. You have to be able to put yourself in someone else's shoes. Sometimes, it's like being an actress. Sometimes there are things that go on in my personal life that I carry with me to work, but I have to leave those things at the door.

I have to take care of the patient and his/her family, and I have to put my own needs aside while I'm at work.

Q: Why should someone pursue a nursing career?

I think it's a career field in which you have a lot of mobility; there are a lot of areas in nursing that you can work in. You can work in-patient, at the home, in the OR, and in OB.

There are so many fields you can go into as a nurse right out of school, and I don't think that that's the case in many other career fields. Also, in today's environment, even though the economy isn't as great as it used to be, it's still a pretty good job to be in.

It's not always as easy as it was back when I became a nurse, but in general, you should be able to get a job in nursing.

Q: What do you wish you had known about nursing before you started?

I wish someone had told me how hard it was, and the workload. I wasn't prepared for that early on. I wish I would have had some opportunities to shadow nurses.

I did work in a hospital for a short period of time; I worked in a lab as a phlebotomist drawing blood. And I did get to circulate throughout different areas of the hospital. I would see nurses here and there working and there were some that I admired and thought were very efficient and good at their jobs.

But, I didn't really fully understand their workload.

Q: What changes have you seen in nursing?

Well certainly the fast-paced environment. I mean, back in the 80s if someone had his/her gallbladder out, he/she would stay in the hospital for a week.

Now, it's pretty much same-day discharge. The technology is much more advanced. Now we have the electronic health record, which we didn't' have before. That is just monumental in how it's changed how we do business.

Q: What do you see for the future of nursing?

Hospitals aren't making the money that they used to make, so the move, in my opinion, is going to be more toward keeping the patient in the home. So I see a greater involvement of nursing in the home care environment.

Q: Any other advice for aspiring nurses?

I know the universities are moving toward a BSN to DNP degree, so it's quite feasible that you could graduate with a doctorate in nursing practice and never really work in a hospital or touch a patient.

I started out with a two-year degree, got the BSN, worked a little while, got the MSN, worked a little while, and got the DNP. As you go from degree to degree, you accrue more experience, knowledge, and clinical judgment.

I have reservations about jumping from a BSN to a DNP degree. You really need to get some clinical experience along the road. I also think universities need to take a look at adding a curriculum in home care.