Air Force Reserve nurses share passion for healing

  • Published
  • By Jake Chappelle
  • 446th Airlift Wing Public Affairs
Years before Dana Fisk was old enough to join the military, she instinctively connected with her family's military heritage, through the distinct scent and texture of the uniform her grandfather wore fighting in World War II, and from gazing at the blemished photo of her great grandmother--who served as a nurse during World War I.

"I knew as a child, I wanted to continue this tradition," said Fisk--now an eight-year Air Force Reserve nurse with the 446th Aeromedical Staging Squadron here. "My grandfather suggested the Reserve after I graduated from nursing school as an opportunity to see the world and serve my country."

Alongside the 446th ASTS, the two other 446th Airlift Wing medical units here--the 446th Aerospace Medicine Squadron and 446th Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron--have a collection of nurses who share a common passion--helping people.

"I always had an interest in serving, so this was the perfect fit for me," said Lt. Col. Kenneth "Rhino" Winslow, 446th AES flight nurse and director of operations. "The care we're able to give to those who put their lives at risk is one of, if not the most, humbling and rewarding experiences I've had."

Winslow--currently an occupational nurse practitioner in Issaquah, Wash--joined the Reserve out of persuasion from coworkers who were with 446th AES, when he was an emergency department and helicopter nurse at St. Joseph Medical Center in Tacoma nearly 27 years ago.

Maj. Ann Selimos, 446th AMDS chief nurse also joined the Reserve out of family inspiration.

"I've always loved helping people," said the registered nurse and adult-pediatric educator. "I decided to go into the military after my little brother enlisted. My brother picked my branch of service and [flight nurse career], and what a great job he did."

Reserve nurses might have the patient-care piece under wraps, but they also have operational and training responsibilities.

Fisk, a major who spends her days at Seattle's Harborview Medical Center as a burn trauma and pediatric nurse, said nurses train to treat every aspect of the patient using a blend of skills, which include science and technology. They also assist with training the unit's medical technicians.

In AES, the nurses primarily focus on maintaining patient-care standards, and fulfilling training requirements, Winslow said. This lets them deploy anywhere, at any time, to provide care to injured and ill patients who need transport. Nurses also coordinate patient care and implement care plans.

With ASTS acting as a mobile hospital, treating patients in the aeromedical evacuation system, nursing duties can include general care, and ground transportation coordination, Fisk said.

"In nursing, we have to be able to do and know almost everything," Winslow said. "I have to know if a [doctor] has written a correct order. I have to know if the respiratory technician needs help, and be able to troubleshoot the equipment. We have to know every piece of equipment and how it affects the patient, and how the stresses of flight impact each of those."

Nurses also have additional duties that require administering training programs, qualifications, planning, operations, and nursing services, he said.

Nurses in AMDS have similar operational and administrative duties as AE, said Selimos. They deal with clinical oversight, infection control, immunizations, physical exams and process, audit charts, and provide training instruction.

Fisk--who spent six years as an AES flight nurse before moving to ASTS--said nurses have opportunities to specialize in other areas.

"I love to work in unique environments. I've worked in an intensive care unit, emergency department, a post-anesthesia care unit, outpatient clinics, and education and research."

Along with the practical facets and wide-range opportunities Reserve nurses share, there are additional benefits--like making a difference.

"Nursing is a very rewarding profession with the ability to make an enormous difference in people's lives--especially the lives of the men and women who serve in the U.S. military," Winslow said.

One of Selimos' pleasures stems from watching her Airmen grow.

"My favorite aspect about the nursing field is watching our enlisted [Airmen] give excellent care, and further their education," she said. "Three of our enlisted members are registered nurses in the civilian world, and are in the process of [applying for commissions]."

Fisk makes a final, but critical element about what it takes to be an Air Force Reserve nurse.

"Those with an engaged and enthusiastic attitude, coupled with the willingness to do hard work, it's an exciting and rewarding job," Fisk said. "The art of kindness, compassion and empathy are important aspects of nursing. Anyone can learn a skill or procedure, but not everyone can be a kind caring nurse."

For those interested in learning more about the Air Force Reserve nursing field, please contact Master Sgt. Yvette Larson at (253) 330-7489 or