ICU military nursing staff go above and beyond

  • Published
  • By Stacey Geiger
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio – To be certified in critical care, it requires critical thinking and for the first time in years, the entire military nursing staff at the 88th Medical Group’s Intensive Care Unit just proved they have what it takes and became board certified.  


“Being 100 percent certified is significant,” said Maj. Gary Webb, 88th Inpatient Operations Squadron Critical Care Flight Commander. “This reflects the quality of nurses that are here in the ICU. Certification reinforces that special knowledge and experiences required for this type of care and also helps nurses maintain an up-to-date knowledge of acute and critical care nursing.”


The Critical Care Registered Nurse certification is a credential granted by the American Association of Critical Care Nurses Certification Corporation. More than 80,000 acute and critical care nurses are certified worldwide. Nurses who undergo the certification process will come out with advanced knowledge of nursing care of acutely and critically ill patients. 


To be eligible to take the certification test, candidates must be a licensed registered nurse or advanced practice registered nurse and have provided a required number of hours of direct care of acutely and critically ill patients. All hours must be documented and certified prior to taking the exam. Re-certification is required every three years.      


Being CCRN certified is not mandatory for military ICU nurses but is highly encouraged. Webb said that having a CCRN certification reaffirms that they are critically care trained and they can carry the pride to call themselves board certified. He added that he is proud that the nursing staff has taken that extra step in their career and profession.


Webb and Col. Lorraine Gravley, Critical Care Flight’s Master Clinician, both attest that by no means is the exam easy to take and it was one of the hardest tests they have ever taken. But once passed, it gave them the validation that they had the critical care knowledge. 


“The test is not a black and white question and answer test,” said Gravley. “The CCRN certification exam takes everything nurses have learned and puts it all together into one exam to see if they are safe to practice at the next level and if they understand the realm of everything that can come at them in critical care. They give you a scenario of a patient so you have to read thru the scenario and pull out every relevant term and everything that can be possibly going on with that patient. The test drives you to really use critical thinking and then you provide what you think is the best answer. This certification reaffirms that you can pull everything in your expertise in and have a good knowledge and grasp on it.” 


Gravley said ICU nurses cannot compartmentalize medical situations and must think outside the box.


“The nurses have to think about that patient and how everything impacts them and all the intricacies that goes with it,” Gravley said. That is what we are looking for in the Air Force, we are not looking for those people who can answer the black and white questions, we want those who can think outside the box.” 


Col. Daniel Gerke, 88th Medical Group’s Chief Nurse said CCRN certified nurses have critical thinking skills that cannot be taught in a classroom. He said they have demonstrated they are more than just intensive care nurses; they are accomplished intensive care nurses.


“When I see someone with a CCRN certification, I know that they can critically think,” said Gerke. “They are now experts in what they do, it’s like being a marksman, they know they can hit the target.”


The eight bed intensive care unit at the 88th Medical Group Intensive Care Unit provides acute and critical care for approximately 300 patients a year.


“We have expert nurses, we are a small facility but the credentials the nurses carry are equal to any large facility in the nation,” said Gravley. “Know that when a loved one is here in the ICU, we have the same level of CCRN certified nurses as the ones at John Hopkins or the Mayo Clinic. They all take the same test.”