November 18, 2007, 4:13 pm

A Hush Hush Job


In the two-and-a-half (almost) years that Emergiblog has been in existence, there has never been a guest blogger.

I recently received an email from a nurse who doesn’t blog, but had written some thoughts they wanted to share.

It is a perspective of nursing we don’t think about (I know I haven’t!), and one we aren’t likely to get very often.

I present it, as written, by the author, who has asked to remain anonymous in the post. I have not edited it in any way.

A letter from “An Army Nurse”:


A Hush Hush Job.

Somewhere out there (I know where, but you probably don’t), there are a group of nurses doing a job that would probably make you stop in your readings and have difficulty forming an opinion over. Here is my small attempt to say “thank you for what you did, even though you probably didn’t want to do it.”

I am sure you have seen the specials on CNN and in Newsweek about the combat hospitals with their remarkable trauma treatments, the toll it takes on the staff, and all the good, dramatic things that go along with CSH (combat support hospital) medical treatment.

However, that is not the group of nurses I am bringing to light. These unique nurses are also military nurses, but they are functioning under very peculiar circumstances and have answered a call that most would never consider. I like to think that this small population of nurses belongs to a siblinghood that will forever be secretly joined.

They did a job, despite their uniform, that only those who came before or followed will be able to relate to. If any of you have added Detainee Healthcare to your terminology in the last 3 years, I applaud you.

If you actually can call yourself, or have called yourself, a detainee nurse, I am without words to thank you. You are forever in my thoughts, as I too share in your experiences, and there are not that many of us. For those of you who are struck dumbfounded, let me enlighten you.

Somewhere in the midst of the War on Terrorism, there are nurses that have been called to duty to care for, none-other-than, the very people that are being accused of attacking, plotting against, funding attacks on, and killing the very same forces that these nurses work along side of.

Didn’t we all take some oath when we became nurses? Something along the lines of caring for all humans regardless of race, gender, ethnicity or situation? I can’’t recall, I think I have become jaded. None-the-less, somewhere detainee nurses are putting to test that oath everyday as they struggle to cope with their actions.

While for some, it is easy to detach from the situation and “just do the job,” others find that with each treatment, with every medication passed, and each day they report to work, their moral fibers are tested and stretched to the limit.

They call it “Winning Hearts and Minds.” If you ask the majority of detainee nurses what they think about winning hearts and minds, I am sure the response is similar across the board. A blank stare and a nasal snort.

The simple motto of detainee health care undermines the seriousness, and the over all difficulty of the job at hand. Try to imagine your self going to work everyday caring for the enemy. I am sure that some of the detainee nurses see it that way. I recall one detainee nurse comparing everyday treatments to that of caring for the drunk driver that just killed a family of five, and is too drunk to even realize it, or care. In other words, they are the patients that you don’t want to care for, but you have to because they showed up in your ER.

So, here’s to you, detainee nurse.

May you stand proud among the few, and realize that you were tasked with what might have been the most difficult job in all of nursing as an American. But do not be ashamed, as you fulfilled (probably unwillingly) an oath that most nurses will never remember taking. You were put to the test, and undoubtedly passed. Go now, back to your normal careers, with this little one year secret in the back of your mind. If you never tell a soul, you wouldn’t be the first; and probably not the last.

And for everyone else, maybe say a little prayer these nurses, as God knows, we need them.

An Army Nurse


  • Julie

    November 19, 2007 at 10:01 am

    A really interesting post and thanks for letting us share it. It must be difficult to be a US nurse and to care for those who might like to or have carried out or funded acts of terrorism (probably more difficult than being British or another nationality). The difficulty has to be not really choosing to do it. If you are in the army you expect to take care of service personnel and maybe civilians, if you are a prison nurse then you expect to take care of those who murder etc. Thought provoking none the less.

  • linda-lou

    November 19, 2007 at 4:10 pm

    Wow! That is definitely a perspective on nursing that I hadn’t considered. Very powerful stuff. Thank you so much to this anonymous poster- and thank you Kim for always educating the public about the roles that nurses play.

  • doc

    November 19, 2007 at 6:12 pm

    A very touching and thought provoking post. Thanks so much for sharing.

  • Mexico Medical Student » Grand Rounds 4:09

    November 20, 2007 at 2:46 am

    […] Emergiblog’s first-ever guest blogger post, an anonymous Army nurse writes a letter of thanks to her fellow military nurses who serve our […]

  • MyOwnWoman

    November 20, 2007 at 10:31 am

    I’m at a loss for words. Thank you for being who you are. God bless all of you.

  • emmy

    November 20, 2007 at 2:23 pm

    My son is in Iraq and I know this sounds strange, but I’m truly grateful for those who will do this. It re-assures me that somewhere we still retain the ability to be human and compassionate.

  • Coemgen

    November 21, 2007 at 11:19 pm

    I’ve just found your blog. Keep it up!

    If all your guest bloggers will be like this one, well, WOW! Extremely thought provoking. It has never even crossed my mind and left me without words.

    A big thanks to the army nurse. Keep sharing. We are the ones who are in a position to show the world what nursing is all about, making the difference. People like you are in a position to show us nurses where we can make that difference…..anywhere (un)imaginable!

  • Max

    November 23, 2007 at 4:26 am

    Fascinating post!

    It, as others have said, is something I would never have considered.

    I have spent some time working in Prisons, and doing your best to look after sex offenders is often challenging, but they want to be seen. Trying to care for someone who is fighting against your very belief system must be a whole different challenge.

    Great guest blogger! (Not that we don’t love your normal post’s of course!)

  • NPs Save Lives

    November 24, 2007 at 5:41 pm

    Unfortunately, that smacks very similarly to those having to take care of a known child molester. I am a survivor of such inhumanity and it’s very difficult to take care of those who hurt children in any way. I still do it with professionalism but it’s a hard thing to do. As far a rehabilitation, there is none. Sorry for the rant! Hope everyone had a great Thanksgiving holiday!

About Me

My name is Kim, and I'm a nurse in the San Francisco Bay area. I've been a nurse for 33 years; I graduated in 1978 with my ADN. My experience is predominately Emergency and Critical Care, and I have also worked in Psychiatry and Pediatrics. I made the decision to be a nurse back in 1966 at the age of nine...

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