Army nurse treats patients like family

By Christopher Hurd, Army News ServiceJune 4, 2024

Maj. Artinsia M. Shakir, executive officer for the 131st Field Hospital, strives to treat her patients like family. She's spent 22 years in service taking care of Soldiers as a combat medic and then as a nurse.
Maj. Artinsia M. Shakir, executive officer for the 131st Field Hospital, strives to treat her patients like family. She's spent 22 years in service taking care of Soldiers as a combat medic and then as a nurse. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Dave Greeson) VIEW ORIGINAL

WASHINGTON — Artinsia M. Shakir could hear the gospel music as she walked into her sister’s hospital room in 2003. It had been almost two weeks since her sister’s surgery to remove a brain tumor that had been sitting on her optic nerve.

Throughout that time, her sister hadn’t interacted much with her or her family. Shakir’s mother stayed in the hospital day and night, worried for her daughter.

“It was one of the most trying times for our family,” Shakir said.

But on this day, she was awake and tapping her leg to the beat of the music. The nurses at the Seattle Children’s Hospital were playing her favorite song, “Shackles” by Mary Mary. They were using the music to get her moving and to help her recover.

This interaction and the level of care her daughter received made Shakir’s mother finally feel comfortable to go home and get some rest.

"What drove me to become a nurse was the way those nurses treated my sister,” Shakir said. “I said [to myself], ‘This is the way I want to make people feel.’ That is when I changed my mind and decided to go to nursing school because I wanted to impact people the way they impacted my family."

Shakir and her three sisters grew up in an Army family with their father being an enlisted supply sergeant. Every few years the family picked up and moved to a new place.

The constant change had an enormous impact on Shakir, she said.

“You learn to adapt,” she explained. “Being a military child, you learn how to be really flexible and adaptable. And even if it’s not in your personality to be outspoken, you learn how to make friends.”

During her sophomore year of high school, her family moved from Germany to Fort Jackson, South Carolina. The adjustment process started all over again, but she embraced it, becoming senior prom queen, and receiving multiple partial athletic scholarships to college.

“I was thriving because I just learned how to adapt to the change, she said. “I got to that high school and jumped right into activities. [Being a military child] definitely molded me and going into the military just felt natural to me.”

After graduating high school in 1997, she joined the Army as a combat medic. She spent five years on Active Duty taking care of Soldiers before leaving the military to focus on her education and to start a family.

That’s when tragedy struck her family and changed Shakir’s life. After staying in the Seattle area for a few months while her sister recovered, Shakir and her then fiancé moved to Augusta, Georgia. There, she started down her path to become a nurse.

She spent her first two years of school at Augusta State University before transferring to the Medical College of Georgia. While she was a student, she got a job as a certified nurse assistant in an oncology ward.

One of the patients in the ward had an advanced stage of cancer and could be a handful to treat, she said. She didn’t mind the challenge and would often volunteer to take care of him. Over time, she developed a strong relationship with him and his wife.

At his funeral, his wife thanked Shakir for the care she gave her husband and gave her a blanket she had been knitting while he was in the ward. She told Shakir that her husband wanted her to have it.

"Every time I start to doubt whether this is the career that I was supposed to be in, if this is my purpose, I always get a reminder from a patient that this is exactly where I'm supposed to be,” she said.

Military service is another thing that seems to be constant in Shakir’s life. She joined the Reserve Officers’ Training Corps while she was in college with the intent of staying in the Army Reserve after graduation. Those plans changed after she attended the ROTC Advanced Camp.

The 35-day training event tests cadets' critical thinking, problem-solving skills, and their ability to lead and adapt in complex environments.

She went into the course in full-on G.I. Jane mode. She cut her hair, dyed it blond, and worked out as hard as she could in preparation. She did so well during the training that she received the highest rating and her instructors persuaded her to return to Active Duty.

Once I made my mind up, I was all in, she said. I’m going all the way until retirement this time.

Maj. Artinsia M. Shakir, executive officer for the 131st Field Hospital, found ways to challenge herself throughout her career. She earned her doctorate and her Nurse Case Management Certification, she was a head nurse of a medical-surgical ward, and she was the case manager for recovering Soldiers admitted to hospitals during a recent deployment to Kuwait
1 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Maj. Artinsia M. Shakir, executive officer for the 131st Field Hospital, found ways to challenge herself throughout her career. She earned her doctorate and her Nurse Case Management Certification, she was a head nurse of a medical-surgical ward, and she was the case manager for recovering Soldiers admitted to hospitals during a recent deployment to Kuwait (Photo Credit: U.S. Army photo by Dave Greeson) VIEW ORIGINAL
Maj. Artinsia M. Shakir has spent most of her life being a part of the Army in one way or another. She was an Army "brat", active-duty medic, ROTC cadet and now is an active-duty nurse.
2 / 2 Show Caption + Hide Caption – Maj. Artinsia M. Shakir has spent most of her life being a part of the Army in one way or another. She was an Army "brat", active-duty medic, ROTC cadet and now is an active-duty nurse. (Photo Credit: U.S. Army) VIEW ORIGINAL

She commissioned in 2009 and started her Army nursing career at Fort Eisenhower, which was home for her in Augusta, Georgia. There, she started in the clinical nurse transition program where she got to be mentored and coached by an experienced nurse before taking on patients of her own.

“It was pretty amazing,” she said. “That’s where I got my grounding as a brand-new nurse.”

She continued to develop her skills as her career progressed, always making sure to treat her patients like one of the family.

One patient went through a difficult birth and was in the hospital for three months recovering from her injuries. Shakir grew close to the new mother during that time. After she was discharged, Shakir would still check on her and even stop by her house to make sure she was doing well.

It’s been seven years since that patient left the hospital, but their bond remains.

“Some patients are special,” she said. “Whenever I see pictures of them it reminds me of why I became a nurse.”

Shakir had another patient, who was a handful for other nurses. She volunteered to take him just like she did back in the oncology ward when she was a student.

“He was a big old grumpy teddy bear,” she recalled. “He was one of my favorites.”

One day, while she was checking him, she noticed a small purple mark the size of a pinprick on one of his toes. She asked him what it was, and he couldn’t recall doing anything to the toe.

She checked on him a few days later and the mark grew to the size of a pencil eraser. She went into the hallway and asked a vascular surgeon if he could look at it. He used an ultrasound machine and discovered the area wasn’t getting any oxygen because one of the capillaries was blocked.

The patient needed to have the toe removed, but because Shakir caught the problem early he didn’t lose his foot. He lived for several years after that and Shakir kept in touch with the family.

The patient’s granddaughter thanked Shakir for the care she gave her grandfather and even told her she decided to become a nurse because of her, just as it happened for Shakir.

“That was full circle for me,” she said. “I’ve always felt that if you treat your patients like your own family, you will never go wrong.”

Throughout her Army Nurse Corps career, Shakir found ways to challenge herself. She earned her doctorate in 2015 and her Nurse Case Management Certification in 2020 after working at the Soldier Recovery Unit. She was a head nurse of a medical-surgical ward, taking care of her fellow nurses and patients when she could. And recently she was the case manager for recovering Soldiers admitted to hospitals during a deployment to Kuwait.

When she got home from that deployment in January, now a major, she looked for a new role that was out of her nursing comfort zone and found it as the executive officer for the 131st Field Hospital.

Now, 22 years of service later, Shakir is still enjoying her Army life.

“I’ve known the Army all my life,” she said. “I love the brotherhood and the sisterhood. I love the comradery. These are my brothers and sisters in arms. [I think about it like] ‘Would I take a bullet for you; would I take a grenade for this team?’ Hell yeah, I would!”

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