At first glance, the world of the military nurse is very different from our own. After all, here we are, safe and sound, while they’re on the front lines in Iraq, Afghanistan, and countless other places around the world.
Military medical personnel are confronted daily, hourly, with the results of war. Even those of us who work in civilian trauma facilities don’t see a fraction of what these folks experience. None of us have to wear body armor when working triage!
Yet in many ways, we’re not as different as you might suppose. The same nursing skills we use every day are also used by military personnel. That being said, the structure, rules and regulations of the military can make tasks more challenging than they are on the more peaceful side of the equation.
Take a simple assessment:
Once, there was this one Marine Corps. General who was in a horrible accident. As a result, he had to have both of his ears amputated. Years later, he was interviewing a young Lt. in his office. He really liked this Lt. and asked him “Hey Lt., do you notice anything different about me?”
The Lt. replies “Well, yes sir, you have no ears.”
The general was so mad that he kicked the Lt. out of his office.
The next day, the general was interviewing a female Lt. He also like this Lt. and asked her the same thing. “Lt. do you notice anything about me?”
She says “Well yes sir, you have no ears.”
He kicks her out of his office.
Now, the next day, the general is interviewing a GySgt. He really likes this clever GySgt. and asks him “Sergeant, do you notice anything about me?”
The Sarge says “Well yes sir you’re wearing contact lenses.”
The general was so impressed and asked “How did you know I was wearing contacts?”
The sarge says “Well, it’d be pretty hard to wear glasses without ears.”
Humor and the Military Nurse
Humor is a valuable tool that allows us to remain resilient and up to the challenges that must be faced and overcome. When you’re in an extremely tense environment – and I’d say any environment where you have a more than reasonable expectation of being shot at qualifies! – the ability to identify and exploit those opportunities to laugh is a critical survival skill.
Humor provides many valuable physical and emotional benefits. By alleviating the effects of stress and tension, laughter helps return the body to a state of balance. Obviously, this is not a cure all. Just as we know there are no truly quiet nights in the ER, every moment of our military medical personnel’s day is one that is inherently filled with stress and tension.
It is not unusual to hear military personnel who have been deployed overseas talk about a sense of being forgotten or separated from the world back home. This sense of isolation is very bad not only for their morale, but for making the transition back home once the deployment is done easier. Humor can play a role in combatting this sense of being separate and forgotten.
Reach out to nurses and military medical personnel that you know who are far from home. Something as simple as a funny email can bring a much needed smile. When you send care packages, tuck in some funny cartoons or jokes. If we practice laughing together when we’re apart, it will be that much easier to laugh together when we’re on the same soil once again!