From left:  Dr. Joel Hicks, dean, Northwestern State University School of Nursing and Allied Health; Lt. Col. Michelle O’Neill, chief nurse, Emergency Department; Maj. Markeisha Hubbard, chief nurse, Mixed Medical Surgical Department; Lt. Col. Dwight Berry, chief of Quality; Troy Boudreaux, medical recruiter, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital; Maj. Carmen Salcedo, Command Surgeon liaison officer, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk; and Dr. Chris Maggio, president, NSU, discuss undergraduate and graduate nursing programs offered at the university during a visit in honor of Nurses Week in Natchitoches, La., May 12.
From left: Dr. Joel Hicks, dean, Northwestern State University School of Nursing and Allied Health; Lt. Col. Michelle O’Neill, chief nurse, Emergency Department; Maj. Markeisha Hubbard, chief nurse, Mixed Medical Surgical Department; Lt. Col. Dwight Berry, chief of Quality; Troy Boudreaux, medical recruiter, Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital; Maj. Carmen Salcedo, Command Surgeon liaison officer, Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk; and Dr. Chris Maggio, president, NSU, discuss undergraduate and graduate nursing programs offered at the university during a visit in honor of Nurses Week in Natchitoches, La., May 12.

(Photo Credit: Jean Clavette Graves)
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FORT POLK, La. — Nurses from Bayne-Jones Army Community hospital conducted several community relations events to celebrate Nurses Week 2021.

This year’s theme, “Unified, Reliable, Ready,” provided the opportunity to demonstrate unity through outreach efforts with regional hospitals and academic partners.

On May 12, BJACH nurses visited Northwestern State University’s College of Nursing and School of Allied Health along with the Demon Battalion, Reserve Officer Training Corps, in Natchitoches, Louisiana.

Maj. Carmen Salcedo, command surgeon liaison officer for the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, said spending the afternoon at NSU was a beneficial way to enhance the Army’s reputation as a respected professional organization.

“Building relationships with community partners is important to Army nursing,” she said.

“Northwestern State University needs instructors and we need nurses; it’s a great way to work together for a common goal and advance the profession. Ultimately we would love to have NSU nursing students graduate and join the Army Nurse Corps in our quest to gain more talent in our ranks.”

Salcedo said several nurses from BJACH serve as adjunct faculty for the NSU-Leesville campus, and during the visit she learned about the school’s combat medic to associate of science in nursing program.

Dr. Linda Nichols, nursing coordinator for the Leesville campus, said the experience was beneficial.

“I thought the event was great and opened up avenues to continue working with BJACH,” she said. “I’m very excited about the possibility of partnering with the hospital on post to enhance our program for paramedics and combat medics.”

Dr. Joel Hicks, dean of the NSU College of Nursing and School of Allied Health, said the visit provided an opportunity for the university to have a more in-depth understanding of the staffing needs of BJACH.

“Based on these conversations, several ideas regarding the current relationship between NSU and Fort Polk and furthering the partnerships between the two were able to occur,” he said.

“Additionally, numerous undergraduate and graduate level nursing programs were discussed that would help increase the number of registered nurses and nurse practitioners in areas that need them most.”

On May 13, BJACH hosted 16 nurses from Byrd Regional Hospital and Beauregard Health System for a unified community luncheon and tour. During the visit nurses also met with pilots and crew of Fort Polk’s Army Air Ambulance Detachment, “Cajun Dustoff,” 1st Battalion, 5th Aviation Regiment.

Kevin Quinn, CEO, Byrd Regional Hospital, said he appreciated the opportunity to visit Fort Polk with his nursing team.

“The nursing profession is the backbone of health care,” he said. “I can’t think of a better way to show our appreciation to nurses than to partner with BJACH and Beauregard Health Systems to partake in this celebration. Nurses are on the frontline, we are always reliable and because of our training and education, we are ready to take care of our patients.”

April Newman, assistant director of same-day-surgery, Beauregard Health Systems, said she had never been on Fort Polk or to BJACH before.

“The hospital is beautiful and it was great to see what is available to Soldiers and their Families,” she said. “I hope we can collaborate more in the future to implement best practices together.”

Nurses Week culminated May 14 with a formal ceremony and cake-cutting. Guest speaker Hicks compared the nursing profession to the military.

“In many ways, the selfless nature of the Soldier and the nurse are similar. Both professions are built on the principle of service to others. For this reason alone, it is great to connect,” he said.

“On a more practical level, the shortage of registered nurses continues to be an issue for our region, state and nation. The United States military branches are not immune to these workforce shortfalls. Building relationships between our university and Fort Polk provides mechanisms to craft solutions to nursing shortages using creative, ‘out of the box’ thinking.”