Student nurses participate in OLS 09

RAYMONDVILLE, TEXAS JULY 27, 2009 -- Over the next two weeks, over 300 uniformed military men and woman will be descending on the Southern region of Texas with one mission in mind: to assist the local civilian health care agencies to provide free, professional, non-emergency health care to anyone in need. Operating out of nine Medical Readiness Training Sites (MRTS) scattered throughout south Texas, the Texas Military Forces includes members of the Texas Air and Army National Guard, as well as members of the Texas State Guard. "We are here to augment the civilian medical personnel," said Col. David Patten, Commander of the MRTS currently operating out of Raymondville, Texas. "This is an opportunity for us as Texans to use our military resources and experience to help this community reach out to its members in need of medical assistance," he continued. A joint civilian and military project, Operation Lone Star boasts volunteers from many local health care agencies, including 11 wide-eyed soon-to-be nurses from the South Texas College nursing program. Patricia Gonzalez, who will be graduating from their Licensed Vocational Nurse program in just a few short weeks, said she is most looking forward to getting more experience in community health nursing. "We chose to come here for the experience we can get at a community event like this. So much of our training is focused on strictly hospital and patient care, but this gives us the chance to practice a lot of different kinds of patient teaching, which will be one of our primary functions once we graduate as LVN's," said Gonzalez. Learning how to effectively communicate with and provide teaching to patients in a non-hospital setting is vital to learning how to be effective as a nurse, agreed Delphia Curran, an instructor at the South Texas College nursing program. "Community health nursing is such an overwhelming need right now, and opportunities like this give our students, who are trained mostly in hospital environments, an entirely different view of nursing." Many of the students grew up in or near the local area, and all said they recognize the great need for increased community health care services, but it can be hard to know how to contribute, explained Gonzalez. "I really wouldn't know what to do for my community except for opportunities like this," she continued. Many of the students have expressed an interest in providing home health services and participating in events such as Operation Lone Star allows them to "get their feet wet" by learning how to communicate and provide for patients whose medical needs may require primarily teaching and supervision, Curran continued. Working alongside TMF also increases awareness for the nursing students, said Shirley Conception, also an instructor at the South Texas College Nursing Program. "Since 9/11, we have tried to expose our students to how it would feel to be working alongside military forces - something they would need to know how to do in the event of some sort of disaster or mass casualty situation," she explained. Ultimately, Conception said, involving her students in Operation Lone Star provides the ultimate combination of community involvement training and increased interaction with other healthcare professionals. "Operation Lone Star is built in to our curriculum and is vital to our ability to prepare these students to handle to diverse world of nursing," she concluded. Providing a training environment for the next generation of nurses is just another way the TMF are happy to assist the Texas community, said Col. Patten. "While we are here, our purpose is to work for these civilians, and any way we can find to provide them support and assistance is just another way to fulfill that mission," he concluded.