The Lived Experience of Chief Nurses in Military Operations Other Than War -- M. Turner

Essential Themes
- Knowing
-- Understanding

Perception of the mission as a whole and careful discernment about the events, relationships and roles of the team led to understanding. Understanding contributed to the increased awareness and expanding consciousness of the chief nurses and a realization that these deployments were in fact a true military experience.


Trying to get my people to understand what you're doing there because sometimes the mission was lost because you .... And you really didn't know and then you get there and what were we doing? Were we invading into the middle of ...their problems?


O.K. you understand that the biggest problem is reconciling why the military are there in the first place. See and that's what you run into when it's not an out-and out war. You know, is it a humanitarian mission or is not? Well, to be honest, where we were was hard to tell.


But it's hard when you're carrying out decisions made by people who really and truly you know don't know ... about being out in the field. And until you've lived out in the field with people and seen what they go through.


We were to take care of the migrants and we knew that. But we were also there to take care of... Well the migrants and the military personnel that were assigned out on the range, out where we were in the camps, to take care of the patients. So we had ended up with 8,600 in the camps and, I think, I want to say it was like 12... I want to say 12,000 military by the time the mission was up ..... there was a big increase in numbers after the riots, a huge increase in the ratio of military to migrants it really changed dramatically.


What a standard ATH is to do is to take care of the wounded, you know do the necessary surgery, and ship 'em. Ship 'em, ship 'em, ship 'em. They're healthy people that are injured in some way in war. That's what we're there for. We are not there as a community hospital to take care of newborns through 80 year olds. So there was a disconnect in what we were set up originally to take care of and what we were required to take care of. So we became a community hospital but it did take us some time.


So it was going to be adult... We were specifically told in our briefings that we... Our mission would not be to take care of children so we were not to do humanitarian work. And we were not to operate outside the confines of the camp.


So, you know, emotionally I... I still get emotional. There were events that took place .....that were very emotional and, you know, felt like I really... Really could appreciate the hardships of predecessors from the years before us in those kind of environments.


People were really, at that point, we had been in theater probably for about 90 days and we were all really questioning why... Why we there and what we were doing and... And I think that that really, .... solidified in our minds, you know, why we were there, it really helped, and it helped kind of give us our second wind, to keep right on... To keep right on trying.


They were great. They were tremendous experiences. Not... I shouldn't... Won't say great but they were... They were defining moments.


So we sent 57 groups of a, nurse and 2 techs. Some of the doctors went also. We'd send them up to the different camps. ...And they would take care of the people. There were illnesses that you would never... They had cholera. They had everything. Phlebotomus fever. They had a measles outbreak. Kids were dying from hunger right across from us, about a mile from us, and you could actually see the tents from our base. They had... They were doing immunizations and we went over and did immunizations.


There were nurses from Ireland and they were... They were really into infection control. And so every time they touched a patient, they would wash their hands. Anytime they... They had on these little... little jackets. And they were changing these jackets .... They were washing them all the time, hanging them up so that they could get dry. We saw some patients with hemorrhagic fever,I had never seen that before. And just walking down, just watching these people, and they ...... They would always be saying "Take me home with you. Can you help me?" And you knew you couldn't do anything .... when they died... When one of the people died, they would take them out in the back and that was the wailing that we heard. It was a line. I want to say 1/2 mile long because people were taking these people to these... Just common massive graves. They were ... They were burying all these people. And so I was standing up on top of the mountain and... And all the trees, all of the leaves... There were no leaves on the trees and that was what struck you first. There were no leaves, there were no birds singing, there were no animals, you couldn't see anything. But I was standing there and I took a picture of this tree and I could never figure out why... Why I took the picture of this tree. Even when I got back, I kept looking at that tree and saying "Now why did I take a picture of that tree." But I was looking at it about 1-1/2 years later and it had the foliage that was starting to come out of this tree. And so it was like a rebirth. Even with the all the death, things were starting to be reborn again. And I saw that, it didn't register in my mind at the time, I just took it, but it did later on. We came down off the mountain .......they had no water, no nothing, and to find out that we left that evening and the terrorists came into camp and killed almost all of the people that were in that camp. And you just think... You know, just by the grace of God, not I.


Because we had just left. I mean we could hear the gun fire but you could hear gun fire all the time. But we never knew until about a week later. M came back into camp and told us what had happened and um... That was very interesting. . They did not kill the people that were helping. I guess, you know, they kept those people so they could help. There was one person killed but we could never confirm who it was and it was not American but it was a nurse. So... We came back down, came back to the camp.


Those were the kind of issues. And then you'd try to think "O.K. this is why they're so desperate. This is why they're willing to tell lies and injure themselves or do whatever they have to do to get to the states."


Some people got angry about being ..... Being female and being restricted. ... We had to wear an abayah. They issued us abayahs, the females, because when you left the base you had to wear abayahs. And you had to have... You couldn't drive. The women couldn't drive off base. And they couldn't... And you had to have a male..... If you wanted to do an exchange of money, you had to have a male there. That didn't bother me because we're in their country.


I found it very interesting, we had, a French R.N. and he was with the French contingent and they had French M.D.'s and so forth but he was the only R.N. He had his technicians, our equivalent of 4N0's. Their mission was convoys ..... they actually went into these places near the skirmishes ... Part of the convoy was the medical detail on the end and they provided medical care and support in case there was somebody hurt or injured on the convoy. So they always had to accompany it. ... what I learned in talking to him is that nursing the world over is not that different... we found it so fascinating, we said "Tell us what nursing is like in your country? And what I learned is that there were more similarities than there are differences. More similarities again than differences. The same thing I learned from my interaction with the English R.N. that I dealt with a lot...... more similarities than differences. So what I learned is that nursing the world over is pretty much the same. Pretty much the same.