Knowing that “everyone who goes to war comes back changed,” Elizabeth Scannell-Desch said she and her twin sister, Mary Ellen Doherty, decided to write a second book on the effect of war on nurses.
Their first book, “Nurses in War: Voices from Iraq and Afghanistan,” published by Springer Publishing Company in 2012, describes the experiences of 37 military nurses who cared for soldiers in mobile surgical field hospitals and other centers in war zones.
The new book, “Nurses After War: The Reintegration Experience of Nurses Returning from Iraq and Afghanistan” released in July by Springer Publishing Company, is based on interviews with nurses who have been back in the U.S. for about four years after serving in Iraq and Afghanistan.
“We wanted people to have a perspective on their wartime experience,” Scannel-Desch, a retired colonel in the U.S. Air Force Nurse Corps, said in a Rutgers University-Camden news release. Scannel-Desch, PhD, RN, OCNS, is an associate dean of baccalaureate programs at Rutgers. Doherty, PhD, CNM, RN, is a professor of nursing at Western Connecticut State University in Danbury and an accomplished researcher, according to Springer Publishing Company’s website.
Their latest book “recounts the variety of the homecomings returning nurses saw, from televised celebrations with happy families and military bands, to desolate arrivals where those who served hardly received a thank-you for their time overseas,” according to the release. “For some, readjusting to life at home proved challenging because the nurses did not receive support from their families or co-workers, who seemed to think the time of deployment had been a vacation for the combat nurses.”
Nurses who returned from war were challenged with readjusting to changing family dynamics as well as considering where to take their nursing career.
Some nurses found they could not return to jobs as trauma nurses and opted to work with babies or older adults, while others changed their careers to reflect their ability to thrive in stressful situations, Scannell-Desch said in the release.
“There’s a big difference between handling trauma cases and handling combat,” she said. Nurses, in some cases, had to assist with what is called “meatball surgery,” which refers to patching up trauma patients quickly before sending them off for more specialized care.
“At times, some nurses were expected to collect the bodies of fallen soldiers in the field because there was no one else to do so,” according to the release.
“Even seasoned trauma nurses from large urban medical centers expressed horror at what they saw and had to do to save lives, ameliorate suffering and allow death with dignity,” Schannel-Desch said in the release.
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For information on self-care for nurses, read “Nurse, Take Care of Thy Self.”