This reflection was written by Jason Malig ‘13 (MSN candidate), a second-year student in University of San Diego’s Master’s Entry Program in Nursing (MEPN) and former Navy Corpsman stationed with the 1st Marine Division, Camp Pendleton, from 2003 to 2008. Malig was part of a group of about 20 USD nursing professors and students, led by adjunct professor Lisa Arnold, who volunteered for the Stand Down for Homeless Veterans event in San Diego from July 13 to 15.
On July 13, 2012, I had the privilege of volunteering in the medical tent at Stand Down with other University of San Diego nursing students, nursing students from other programs in the region, registered nurses, nurse practitioners, and physicians. The primary mission of the medical tent and its volunteers was to provide medical treatment so that participating veterans could remain onsite for the entire Stand Down event and maximize their exposure to the services offered.
As a nursing student, I interviewed veterans to obtain their medical histories, conducted physical assessments, and presented my findings to a nurse practitioner or physician to develop a care plan for them. Dental, podiatry, and alternative medicine services were also onsite for the veterans, in addition to the vast community resources tailored to serve the veterans in attendance.
I believe that the most important lessons that can be learned from attending Stand Down are those derived from every interaction you have with each veteran. Perhaps it was due to our unique situation in the medical tent where discussing past history was a part of the process, but I felt that each veteran I cared for in the medical tent was willing to tell me about their experiences in the military, as a veteran, and as an individual. This provided valuable insight to the veteran culture across many generations, as veterans ranging from the Vietnam War to Operation Enduring Freedom/Operation Iraqi Freedom were being seen.
One of the hardest parts of my Stand Down experience occurred toward the end of my volunteer shift on Friday when a young man in his twenties with a familiar face asked for help finding a sling in the supply area. While we were looking through the supplies, he recognized one of the pins I had on my I.D. badge: the unit crest for my old battalion, 1st Battalion, 4th Marines. It turns out we were both in 1st Marine Regiment as Hospital Corpsmen around the same time, except he was with 3rd Battalion, 1st Marines. I asked if he was at Stand Down as a volunteer, thinking that he might also be in nursing school, only to find out that he was at Stand Down as a homeless veteran having a hard time after getting out of the military.
After we found the sling, he guided another student, who initiated his care in the medical tent, with fitting and applying the sling. Although we’ve made significant progress in terms of caring for our veterans, this moment was just an affirmation that we still have a lot of work to do.
The entire experience of Stand Down from a nursing student’s perspective was that of amazement and reward; amazed at the size and scope of the Stand Down event and rewarded by being able to provide compassionate care to those who have given just about everything for our country and those who reside in it. A special place in my heart is reserved for veterans and I hope to continue to be of service to those who have served throughout my nursing career.
– Jason Malig ‘13
Photos courtesy of Veterans Village of San Diego.