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Combat Medic Seeks Adrenaline of Trauma Nursing
2/25/2014

Jacqueline HessJacqueline Hess felt the full force of adrenaline’s mind-blocking, sweaty, heart-racing effects after her first experience working in a military medical trauma setting.  She was hooked. After an eight-year stint as a U.S. Air Force combat medic, Hess is now a pre-nursing student at the University of St. Thomas, pursuing her goal to be a trauma nurse.

Raised all over the world by a father who made the Air Force his career, Hess, at age 20, found herself motivated by the events of 9/11 to enlist.

“I told them I would take whatever was open,” Hess said.

After some training, and with her mother agreeing to take care of her twin babies, the divorced mother was deployed to Qatar and Afghanistan. She calls those deployments “life changing.”

“It was different from anything I’d ever done before,” Hess said. “The trauma center of the hospital in Afghanistan was very special because we actually had operating rooms. Our stats were great. If they were alive upon arrival, they had a 95 percent chance of survival.”

The work she saw convinced her to go into nursing.

“I watched the doctors and nurses save military and civilian lives, and I just knew I wanted to do that, have that knowledge and help. It was powerful, and I’ll never forget it.”

The cases she saw were not always victories. Some were especially haunting to her, such as the first fatality she witnessed—a special operations forces soldier in Afghanistan who could not be saved after the blast from an improvised explosive device, or IED.

“We worked on him for a long time, and he passed away,” Hess recalled.

And there was the year-old baby who was eventually returned to the family that had dipped him into a pot of boiling water.

“I used to sit and rock him,” Hess said. “We kept him there as long as we could. It was extra hard because I had small kids and just wanted him to be protected.”

Whether she works as a nurse in the military or in a civilian setting, Hess is not on the fence about her focus—it is trauma with all its accompanying intensity.

“The adrenaline actually helps once you learn how to focus.”

In the meantime, Hess, a transfer student from Lone Star Community College, is taking advantage of UST’s Yellow Ribbon Program, which helps qualifying veterans pay tuition costs exceeding the Post-9/11 GI Bill’s usual cap for private schools. She is concentrating on her studies within UST’s nursing program.

“I like UST’s holistic approach to patient care, taking the patient’s spiritual, physical and psychological aspects into consideration,” Hess said. “Classes are small. The professors are really involved. And the scholarship I got through UST’s Veterans Services is great.”

Veterans can learn more about what it’s like to attend the University of St. Thomas at a Veteran Open House on Sunday, March 16 at 5 p.m. in the Malloy Hall Boardroom, 3815 Mt. Vernon St. 

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