Why I Chose Navy Nursing: Cmdr. Benfield

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By Cmdr. Shelly Beck Benfield, department head, Internal Medicine, U.S. Naval Hospital Guam

Cmdr. Benfield has been in the Navy for over 17 years. As part of Nurses Week and the Navy Nurse Corps birthday, May 13, we are highlighting the great work our Navy nurses are doing worldwide.

When I was 12 years old, my mother was diagnosed Leukemia and underwent a bone marrow transplant. At the time, she had a 25 percent chance of survival.

After four months in the hospital under the care of amazing physicians and nurses, my mother returned home and has been in remission for almost 30 years. After this experience, I always knew that I would pursue a career in medicine.

I grew up in a very small farming town in Southern Minnesota. When I graduated from nursing school, I had a strong desire to do something different than what my fellow nursing students were doing after graduation. I saw a flyer on my nursing school campus about Navy nursing and I was instantly intrigued. It immediately felt like a calling and I contacted the recruiter that very same day.  At that time the motto was, “Join the Navy, See the world.” And I have.

I have had so many great memories as a Navy nurse – it is very difficult to choose just one. Pacific Partnership 2010 has been one of the biggest highlights of my career. I served as the division officer of the inpatient pediatric unit where we cared for hundreds of pediatric patients in four different countries in Southeast Asia. Pacific Partnership certainly changes you as a person and a nurse. We changed the lives of so many children providing care and surgeries they would not otherwise receive. There are also dozens of patients and families that I will never forget not to mention the incredible colleagues, friends and family I have met along the way.

The focus of Public Health nurses is to promote, protect, and restore health. Public Health nurses serve stateside in Medical Treatment Facilities, Ambulatory Clinics, overseas hospitals and deploy in support of operational and humanitarian missions across the globe. The public health nurse focuses on prevention, education and health promotion ultimately promoting and maintaining military readiness for both the active duty member and their families.

I’ve learned to never place judgment or make assumptions. Most of the time, it is better to listen than to speak.

To the future nurses, never stop learning. Do not be afraid to ask questions. Take advantage of every opportunity that presents itself and step outside of your comfort zone – you never know where it will lead you. Remain flexible. Adapt. Find a mentor and rely on those that have gone before you. You will often find that someone has already conquered most of the difficult situations that you are faced with. You may not always like what you are doing but it will no doubt make you a better person, nurse and Naval Officer – stick with it and do it well. Most importantly, take care of each other. The friends and family you make in the Navy will be your friends for life.