Sometimes individuals go into a career by accident, and other times they enter it headlong with the intention of making a difference--for example, curing disease.

That's what Janet Morales, a licensed practical nurse who is also a public health nurse at Ireland Army Health Clinic, initially thought of when she thought about becoming a nurse--curing disease.

"My first memory of a nurse as a child was at the Veterans Affairs Hospital in San Juan, (Puerto Rico), when I was old enough to be allowed to visit my father during his many hospitalizations," she recalled. "I remember one nurse that my dad nicknamed 'Miss Kitty' because of her resemblance to a character from 'Gunsmoke.' She was a kind nurse and took good care of my dad."

She said she initially wanted to set out to find a cure for asthma because her dad had drilled that idea into her.

"But I preferred to care directly with pa- tients," she explained. "As a medic assigned to a hospital for the first time, I appreciated when the head of our ward, Lt. Col. Silvani, would show us new folks how to do post-partum fundal checks, how to check for Homan's sign, etc. We learned primarily through mentoring and hands-on training."

Morales, one of many nurses who will recognize National Nurses Week May 6-12, enlisted in the Army in 1994 to become a medic and later, when she became a nurse, her first job out of nursing school was in Landstuhl Army Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. She said when she had her initial meeting with her new command sergeant major she requested the most challenging assignment available--it was the intensive care unit. And that's where she ended up.

ICU nurse take care of patients with life-threatening medical conditions and help treat patients who have experienced invasive surgery, accidents, trauma, organ failure and other life threatening situations.

When she left active duty Morales stayed in health care and now serves as a public health nurse, which means she focuses on improving the health of individuals and the community. Program areas in which a PHN might work include: Communicable Disease Reporting and Surveillance, Health Consultation for Child and Youth Services, Health Promotion, Tobacco Cessation, HIV Program, Latent Tuberculosis infection surveillance and treatment and the Animal Bite Program.

"As the assigned epidemiology technician I provide individual education and counseling of communicable diseases, primarily of the sexually transmitted nature," she further explained. "I also do a great deal of case research, outbreak investigation, PCM notification of laboratory results, reporting to the state agencies and input of information into the Army Disease Reporting System."

But, like every career, nursing professionals have their concerns. Hers is about the high patient- to-nurse ratios at hospitals and nursing homes. And like all professionals they have their bad days.

"The worst day I have had as a nurse was during Desert Storm, when we received non-combat related patients in ICU--once these patients were stabilized they were air-evacuated to the states," she recalled. "I never knew what became of them, or if they even survived. Another one was the C-5 crash in Ramstein, (Germany). It was my first time dealing with victims from an air crash."

But it's the best days of the job on which medical personnel like Morales focus. She said one such day was when she was working at a nursing home in Fulton, Kentucky, and she was tending to an elderly lady who wouldn't eat and was expected to die.

"She eventually had a G-tube placed, and very slowly and with therapy, she began to gain her strength back and was able to leave the nursing home," she said. "It was a happy day when she left because she made it--I still remember her name."

The first job she
had out of nursing school, in LARMC, met the picture she had painted herself of the nursing profession--and she has stayed with it ever since. She likes dealing with people which gives her a sense of fulfillment and it is one reason she has stayed in the nursing profession, she said.

"I wanted to put to good use all the knowledge I had acquired in school to gain all kinds of experience."

For more information on National Nurses Week, visit egories/National-Nurses-Week-2017.