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Working as a nurse in two worlds

  • Published
  • By Master Sgt. Daniel Nathaniel
  • 624th RSG Public Affairs
She made a promise to her grandmother that she would become a nurse.

"My grandmother always wanted to go into nursing, said Capt. Betty Ann Buentipo, a Reservist with the 724th Aeromedical Staging Flight, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam. 

But due to lack of money, her grandmother was not able to pursue her dream. Nor did any of her grandmother's children choose this path for themselves, and since Betty Ann was the only grandchild interested in nursing, she made this promise to her grandmother... at her deathbed.

In 1999, she began as a nurse's aide at Guam Memorial Hospital while pursuing her Bachelors in Science of Nursing degree at the University of Guam. Graduating in 2000, she finally worked her way to become a nurse at GMH that same year.

Working in the Emergency Department at Guam Memorial Hospital is a very challenging experience, said Maria Perez, Guest Relations Coordinator. The ED sees more than 27,000 patients a year and this load is growing quickly due to increasing population on Guam and influx from neighboring islands.

"The hardest thing is that we are the only hospital on Guam," said Captain Buentipo. "We don't have a big enough facility to take care of the population of Guam and we have a lot of sick people."

"So in the ER, I am not only an ER nurse, I have to transition to becoming an ICU nurse, to being a pediatric nurse, to a surgical attendant to a telemetry nurse because there are no rooms and we have to take care of all of these patients," said Captain Buentipo.

But despite these challenges, she reminds those who work with her to treat everyone like they would their own family.

It was her own brother's service in the Air Force that inspired her to join the Reserve and the 724th ASTF here in July 2007. There are significant differences between her nursing work in the civilian sector and in the military.

As an ER nurse, she performs a significant amount of hands-on clinical work and some paperwork. While on the Reserve side, she does some clinical work and handles a lot more of the administrative work.

Her experiences in the both the civilian and military worlds crossover into and influence each other. The 724th ASTF has definitely benefitted.

"Captain Buentipo brings invaluable skills as an ER nurse," said Capt. Leonora Urbano, 724th ASTF clinical nurse. "She trains our medical technicians in skills such as gastric tube insertion, resuscitation skills, care of fixator pins and more."

Her military experience has not gone unnoticed by her co-workers at Guam Memorial. One popular story involves a doctor who ordered her to do something that she correctly believed she didn't have to do.

"She told him that he wasn't in her chain of command." said Jennifer Cruz, nursing administrator, laughing.

She has definitely shown a lot of growth since joining the Air Force, said Ms. Cruz.

This military experience with concepts such as 'chain of command' has definitely helped her as she takes on extra administrative duties at the hospital.

Though she made it, fulfilling her grandmother's wish wasn't always easy. "I remember going through nursing school and I would go to her grave site every day and cry 'I want to quit, I want to quit,'" she said. "But I always went back to the promise I made her on her death bed that I wouldn't stop until I finish."

"I think that she would be proud," said Captain Buentipo.

The 724th Aeromedical Staging Flight, Andersen Air Force Base, Guam, is part of the 624th Regional Support Group, headquartered at Hickam AFB, Hawaii, which is the largest Air Force Reserve presence in the Pacific.