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Hospital Happenings

News | May 16, 2023

BJACH holds weeklong celebration of nurses at Fort Polk

By Jean Graves, Medical Readiness Command, West

Bayne-Jones Army Community Hospital celebrated National Nurses Week, May 6-12 at the Joint Readiness Training Center and Fort Polk, Louisiana.

1st Lt. Justin Sinlao, registered nurse on the mixed medical surgical ward and the officer in charge of Nurse Week planning committee for BJACH, kicked off the festivities May 5 with Natalie O’Quinn on Good Day CENLA, CBS News, Alexandria, Louisiana.

Sinlao discussed the importance of Nurses week with O’Quinn.

“When I first became a nurse, I didn’t understand the importance of Nurses Week,” he said. “The longer I have been a nurse, the more I realize that it is a rewarding, yet challenging profession.”

Sinlao said Nurses Week is an opportunity to show gratitude and appreciation for nurses.

“Nursing is a challenge, sometimes the work we do goes unseen,” he said. “Burnout is prevalent in the medical profession, so appreciation goes a long way.”

Sinlao said this year’s nurses’ week theme is Nurses make a difference, anytime, anywhere – always.

“For me personally being able to educate patients about procedures, diseases and how their bodies work to improve their health and their lives is the most rewarding part of being a nurse,” he said. “On and off duty, we provide medical expertise, and this is a week to recognize and celebrate the hard work of our fellow nurses, not just at BJACH but across the state and around the country.”

Sinlao and his committee set up a week of activities for nurses each day at BJACH including breakfast, special jackets and gifts, an ice cream social, popcorn, yoga, and a closing ceremony with a blessing of the hands and cake.

Capt. James Walker, hospital chaplain, said “the blessing of the hands ceremony” is a nurses week tradition.

“Human touch is an essential component of healthcare,” he said. “Blessing their hands with oils is a way to recognize its significance while also acknowledging the spiritual elements of physical care.”

The team held several fund raisers and received a generous grant from the Fort Polk Thrift Store to make it all possible.

Sinlao, Col. Dwight Berry, chief nurse, Toni Pritchard, public health nurse, and Spc. Sydney Pierce, licensed practical nurse from BJACH, visited with nursing students on May 10, at Southwest Louisiana Technical Community College, Lamar Salter Campus, Leesville, Louisiana.

Dr. Geralyn Janice, instructional site coordinator for SOWELA’s Leesville campus, said it was important to have the nurses from BJACH talk to the nursing students.

“Once our students earn their LPN credentials, it’s important for them to learn from nurses in the field about different job opportunities,” she said. “It’s also important for them to know that there are opportunities to work at BJACH and to serve the Soldiers and their Families who are such a huge part of our community.”

Janice said she was very appreciative to have the Soldiers and civilian nurses take the opportunity during Nurses Week to talk to her students.

“This will give our students the full spectrum of opportunities available to them, so they won’t limit themselves,” she said. “Nursing is not just about the academic knowledge we provide to them. It’s about the heart of nursing. We have an accredited program and a group of instructors who love what they do and ensure our students are holistically well rounded both academically and emotionally.”

Janice said empathy is just as important as the skills they are obtaining.

“Our next nursing cohort begins in August, and we encourage anyone interested in pursuing one of our academic programs to visit our website and we will help them with the application process,” she said.

Toni Pritchard, public health nurse for BJACH as well as a Lamar Salter alumni and former faculty member, encouraged students to continue learning and seek out opportunities they will enjoy.

“Don’t take a job you know you aren’t going to like,” she said. “Leave yourself open to opportunities, healthcare is expanding and so are the opportunities and you’ll find your fit eventually.”

Pritchard also encouraged the students to continue their educational journey upon graduation and shared with them her journey as a certified nursing assistant, a practical nurse, a registered nurse, earning a Bachelor of Science in nursing, a master’s degree and finally, a doctorate.

The Defense Health Agency is celebrating nurses at military treatment facilities around the world for their unwavering commitment to patients and the value they provide to the unified health care team in accomplishing the medical readiness mission.

Editor’s Note: If you are interested in learning more about the SOWELA practical nursing program please visit:
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