Nurses describe experiences of war duty in book, Camden talk

    Nurses have been serving in Iraq and Afghanistan along with the troops since those conflicts began. Two sisters who wrote a book describing nurses’ experiences are speaking to nursing students at Rutgers Camden Friday.

    One of the goals of the book is to give voice to nurses who have served in the wars, says author Mary Ellen Doherty, a registered nurse who is also a professor of nursing. Doherty taught many students whose first assignment was to serve in Iraq or Afghanistan. The contributions of nurses are often overlooked, she said.

    “They are faced with catastrophic injuries every day, sick people, maimed people, burned people,” Doherty said. “And the American people, and people all over the world, should know about this.”

    She says many of the nurses experienced emotional trauma while serving on the front line, and struggled to return to their lives back home.

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    Doherty wrote the book with her twin sister, Elizabeth Scannell-Desch, a retired Air Force nurse, after doing extensive research with returned war nurses.

    Scannell-Desch says many of the nurses were surprised by who their patients were; they had prepared to serve wounded soldiers, and had not expected to care for so many children caught in the crossfire of war.

    “Those nurses who were parents were taking care of terribly injured children who were the same age as their children back home,” she said. “The other thing is that many of the nurses that were deployed were not pediatric nurses, so they had to adapt, taking care of that kind of client.”

    Scannell-Desch says the book also provides practical information for nurses serving in war zones.

    Rutgers Camden Nursing School dean Joanne Robinson says the school invites speakers to spark discussions about important topics among nurses, and to give aspiring nurses a chance to hear different perspectives on their profession.

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