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NP Student to Advise Air Force About Neonatal Care


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By Debra Wood, RN, contributor

Upon graduation as a master’s prepared nurse practitioner this spring, Capt. Heather Dahmer, RN, BSN, will serve for three years as a consultant to the Air Force Surgeon General, advising him about best practices for neonatal services and developing standards of care at Air Force hospitals.

“I have been given the most incredible opportunities,” said Dahmer, about her nine years in the military.

Dahmer also will interview nurses interested in taking the basic NICU course and facilitate transition to the location where the course is offered. She will assist in making suggestions for assigning individuals to certain hospitals to optimize skills and experience to get a good balance within those units.

“As the consultant, you are the subject matter expert,” she said.

Dahmer will also make recommendations for deployment of personnel to active war zones.

Although some Air Force nurses specialize, such as in neonatal nursing care, Dahmer explained that the military may send nurses anywhere they are needed to care for wounded troops.

In her new role, Dahmer aims to increase the number of Air Force neonatal nurse practitioners.

“I would like to facilitate an easier transition from an active assignment,” Dahmer said. “I’d like to come up with a way that’s easier for people to stay in touch with their military obligations.”

Dahmer applied for a competitive scholarship to attend a civilian school, the University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston, because military educational offerings did not offer a neonatal nurse practitioner program.

“Captain Dahmer is an exemplary nurse and graduate student, and we are fortunate to have people of her caliber serving our country in this capacity,” said Linda L. Rath, PhD, RNC, NNP, assistant professor and director of UTMB’s neonatal nurse practitioner program.

After she graduates in April, the Air Force will assign Dahmer to a hospital in Japan, Germany or the United States to work as a clinical nurse specialist or in a management position in a neonatal intensive care unit.

“It’s really wherever the needs of the Air Force are. It’s a payback for them paying for my schooling,” said Dahmer, who will serve as consultant for three years.

Dahmer also hopes to improve recruitment of nurses to neonatal care and retention of nurses already in that role.

“It’s such an excellent and rewarding career field, I’d like to see more people join,” she said.

Dahmer entered the Air Force after four years as a nurse and has traveled the globe. She said her nursing career has fulfilled a lifelong dream.

“From the first day I did my rotation through the nursery and the NICU, I fell in love with it, and I have not wanted to do anything but NICU,” she said.

Eventually, Dahmer plans to obtain a doctoral degree, once she becomes comfortable as a nurse practitioner. She will serve in the Air Force for at least four more years to fulfill her education payback commitment.

“The military offers tremendous opportunities for nurses,” Dahmer said. “You can get the experience inside the military, travel the world and have opportunities to further your education.”

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