VA Ann Arbor Healthcare System
Future Navy Nurses Get Lessons from Veterans
“We didn’t ask to be assigned to the VA,” says Helen Galliani, a University of Michigan School of Nursing (UMSN) sophomore. “It just worked out that way, and it’s been great to learn more about Veterans and their health issues, especially since that is part of our future.”
Galliani, from Evanston, IL, and classmate Lindsay Grzegorzewski from Cincinnati, OH, are both part of U-M’s Naval Reserve Officers Training Corps (NROTC). This semester they are fulfilling their nursing clinical requirements at the Veterans Affairs Ann Arbor Healthcare System. It’s a fortuitous fusion of their current and future career goals. After graduation, each is expected to serve a four-year tour with the Navy.
“At the VA, we do physical assessments, charting, take vitals, insulin checks, and help the patients with showers,” says Grzegorzewski. “As student nurses we have more time than the nurses, so we get to talk with the veterans a little more and hear their stories.”
“The Veterans get a kick out of it when they hear about our plans,” says Galliani. “Everyone’s got a story about a nurse. It’s fun to be a part of that lineage of a profession that has a very good reputation with the military.”
Their experience at the VA has also provided new understanding for Galliani and Grzegorzewski about the health issues facing many veterans. “It’s hard to see, especially how many patients have post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD),” says Galliani. “I don’t think it’s something that is talked about enough. I also think a lot of the younger people joining the military don’t know what they are getting themselves into.”
But the students say that is starting to change. “Our battalion is really pushing for mental health awareness,” says Grzegorzewski. “They’re making us very aware of the problems, what we can do to help, and what resources are available.”
Nursing students have one of the most rigorous schedules of all undergraduate majors. Taking on the commitment of ROTC—which includes additional classes, physical training sessions and added activities—is no easy task, but the students say they were well prepared.
“Our first semester freshman year they put us through Delta Company, which is basically trying to make your life miserable,” laughs Galliani. “They put you through so much stress that anything else in comparison is nothing.”
“They had us plan everything,” agrees Grzegorzewski. “They had us write out detailed daily schedules, and it really helped us with time management.”
The students had different inspirations for their career paths, but both credit family influences. For Grzegorzewski, her twin sister’s major back surgery when they were in 7th grade opened her eyes to a career in nursing. It’s was her older brother’s participation in ROTC that sparked her interest in the military. Galliani comes from a Navy family including her father, uncle and grandfather. She had an early interest in health care and decided nursing was the right fit because it will support her passion for science and interaction with people.
The students won’t know where they’ll be stationed with the Navy after graduation, so both say they are focused on learning as much as they can right now. “There are so many great opportunities ahead, and it makes me really excited about the future,” says Grzegorzewski.
“It’s a really good feeling to know I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing,” says Galliani.