Navy nurses joined their peers worldwide to celebrate National Nurses Day on May 6, in a year of extraordinary effort in fighting the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to National Nurses Day, the nation honored nurses for their service during National Nurses Week, which ran from May 6-12.
For Navy nurses, May 13 marked the 112th birthday of the Navy Nurse Corps. Then-President Theodore Roosevelt signed the Naval Appropriations Bill that authorized the establishment of the Nurse Corps as a unique staff corps of the Navy.
Commander Charlene Rena Ohliger, a Salem native, is the force nurse, assigned to Commander, Naval Air Force Atlantic (COMNAVAIRLANT). Ohliger, who previously served on board USS Theodore Roosevelt (CVN 71) from 2011 to 2014, discussed what the annual Nurses Week means to her.
“Part of Nurses Week is appreciation for what our nurses go through day in and day out. It’s that time to reflect on what has gone on that year and re-energize and recharge to start out for the next year. We all need that respite at some point and, no matter where we’re at, that is Nurses Week to me,” said Ohliger.
Ohliger has served the Navy for 31 years as both a Navy nurse and hospital corpsman. During the COVID-19 pandemic, her unit has been reporting claimancy health statistics, and ensuring proper personal protective equipment is available to sailors and medical procedures.
This Nurses Week was a pinnacle event in a year of medical heroes. In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Navy nurses across the United States are stepping up to the diverse and changing challenges of fighting the virus. The Navy Nurse Corps is composed of more than 16 specialties and subspecialties to answer these challenges completely.
“I had the privilege to work a lot with the fleet and to work outside the traditional walls of a medical treatment facility. It’s amazing the opportunities that our nurses have to expand and serve the mission,” Ohliger said. “We have en-route care nurses; we have nurses that are working in austere environments. We also have nurses that are working with the community during humanitarian missions. The nursing field is so diverse and the Navy Nurse Corps offers so many opportunities.”
Submitted by Megan Brown, Navy Office of Community Outreach