Nursing, Core Values, and Caring during Operation Iraqi Freedom


Name: Janet Gehring

Rank: CDR, USN

Organization: The Henry Jackson Foundation

Performance Site: National Naval Medical Center, Bethesda, MD

Year Published: 2005

Abstract Status: Initial


Medical support is an essential asset to any war plan as the support ensures caring treatment and return of war fighters to duty. Today's war plans require troops to be moved quickly into position for execution of an operational mission. According to the most recent report from Navy Medicine, (April 2004) a three-fold increase in Total Medical Force Deployment has occurred over the last two years. An increase in deployment of total forces increases the urgency of acquiring knowledge that identifies supportive and non supportive behaviors and conditions for Navy Nurses in arduous wartime conditions. The purpose of this qualitative study is to describe what it was like for Navy Nurses to provide nursing care during the arduous context of Operation Iraqi Freedom (OIF) while aboard the United States Naval Ship (USNS) Comfort. These nurses bore the responsibility of providing emergency care to the first casualties of OIF. The experiences of Navy Nurses caring for large numbers of military and civilian casualties during this war are a unique encounter. Capturing vivid personnel accounts during this unique opportunity will expand the body of knowledge of nursing by describing the conditions and behaviors that are in conflict with core values, and rendering quality nursing care. These descriptions will serve to prepare and train future nurses deployed to operational settings or operations other than war. A qualitative methodology employing inductive, hermeneutic phenomenologic techniques will entail conducting in-depth taped interviews using open-ended questions. The research questions guiding the study are: 1. What was it like to provide nursing care that was in accordance with the nurse's core values? 2. What was it like to provide nursing care that was inconsistent with the nurse's core values? 3. What are the conditions/behaviors that were supportive or non-supportive to practicing in accordance with the nurse's core values? 4. How do nurses incorporate arduous wartime experiences into their everyday lives? The data elicited from the interviews will provide a detailed explication of experiences from Navy Nurses who lived and practiced aboard the USNS Comfort. These accounts will support operational nursing by identifying the challenges and successes in the personal and professional aspects of the lives of nurses that previously served in a combat zone. The findings of this study will address the future readiness of nurses assigned to hospital ship platforms. The ultimate goal of this study is to prepare nurses to practice in similar intense and potentially hostile nursing care environments.