December 22nd, 2011
By Jennifer Olin, BSN, RN
I am fascinated, as this year draws to a close, by a couple of recent promotions. Nurses are stepping into roles traditionally held by physicians. The most recent, not only takes over an area where even the title proclaims doctor but she is also the first woman to ever hold the post.
On December 7, 2011, Lt. Gen. Patricia D. Horoho, RN, MSN, MS, became the first nurse and first woman ever appointed Surgeon General of the United States' Army. This comes as many changes face our fighting forces including the complete pull out of troops from Iraq on December 18.
"Over the past decade, Army medicine has led the joint health effort in the most austere environments." Horoho said. "As part of the most decisive and capable land force in the world, we stand ready to adapt."
A decade of this war, she said, has left a fighting force with both physical and psychological scars.
"We are dedicated to identifying and caring for those Soldiers who have sustained psychological and physical trauma associated with an Army engaged in a protracted war," she said, adding that the war fighter does not stand alone.
As Army surgeon general, Horoho will oversee the third largest healthcare system in the country, just behind the Department of Veterans Affairs and the Hospital Corporation of America. Before her promotion Horoho commanded the Army Nurse Corps.
The office of the Army surgeon general has an annual budget of 13.5 billion dollars and oversees more than 480 facilities and 29 executive agencies. The department employees 140,000 military and civilian workers and provides for more than 3.6 million people around the world.
"Army medicine," Horoho said, "has a responsibility to all those who serve, to include family members, and our retirees who have already answered the call to our nation. We will fully engage our patients in all aspects of their healthcare experience at each touch point, starting with the initial contact.
"We will make the right care available at the right time by demonstrating compassion to those we serve and value to our stakeholders. The collective healthcare experience is driven by a team of professionals partnering with the patient, focused on health, health promotion and disease prevention to enhance wellness.
One of Army medicine's greatest challenges over the next three to five years, she said, is managing the escalating cost of providing world-class healthcare in a fiscally constrained environment.
Horoho earned her Bachelor of Science in nursing at the University of North Carolina, and completed her Master of Science degree as a clinical trauma nurse specialist at the University of Pittsburgh.
Earlier this month we told you about Marilyn Tavenner, a nurse who is now the head of The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid. She is also the first nurse to lead this federal office.