FORT SILL, Oklahoma (May 17, 2021) – Though Nurse Appreciation Week ended May 12, the value of nurses at the Sgt. David B. Bleak Troop Medical Clinic (TMC), continues in support of Fort Sill’s important training mission.
Maj. Randy Rau, chief of Soldier Medicine and a nurse practitioner, leads a team of six nurses with a constantly busy schedule. Rau said the TMC staff sees about 100 to 150 patients a day, primarily basic combat trainees. Once the summer surge starts those numbers can escalate to 200 to 250 patients per day.
“The primary mission here is all about readiness – getting these trainees back into their training. We want them to stay in training the whole time they are here, but obviously some need to come in for numerous reasons,” said Rau, who first joined the military as a Marine Corps enlistee in the late 1980s.
Rau works closely with the other five nurses – Tavya Johanek, Cambria Harris, Kristi Putnam, Lorren Cortez, and Barbara Schira.
The clinic also has other staff members, health care providers, and services to include physical therapy, pharmacy, and radiology that together handled about 15,000 initial entry trainees in 2020, said Rau.
Some of the tasks the nurses perform are: managing tuberculosis screenings, managing treatments, such as blister care, and requesting prescriptions. Nurses also manage trainees separating early from the Army and those who are medical hold status while rehabilitating from injuries. Further, they track trainees who are receiving care at Comanche County Memorial Hospital or Southwestern Medical Center in Lawton, while Rau, Shirah, and Putnam diagnose, treat, and coordinate for higher levels of care if needed.
Last year, the TMC staff provided care to over 21,500 patients, which means about 10 percent of the trainees returned for two or more visits. Rau said care ranged from the full range of maladies people seek medical care for to providing inserts into trainees’ boots or physical therapy to help trem understand and learn to move in ways the Army requires of Soldiers. Those typically are handled in few visits.
Others develop bone stress-fractures in what Rau called going from “zero-to-hero” in terms of little physical exertion before reporting to Fort Sill to putting forth maximum effort.
“That takes some time to heal so they can take six to eight weeks of physical therapy followed by Warrior Training and Rehabilitation Program time,” he said.
All told, about 90 percent of their case load comes from trainees working their way through basic combat training to become Soldiers.
“I believe this is one of the best teams I’ve worked with in my 30-plus years of military service,” said Rau.