Alumni event provides ideal setting for nursing school to honor service
In many ways, the nursing profession has gone hand-in-hand with military service over the centuries.
“A lot of people think they are very separate, but they’re really not because the person we think of as the founder of modern nursing was Florence Nightingale,” said Paul Boackle, AirCare flight nurse and member of the Mississippi Air National Guard based in Jackson.
An English nurse born to a wealthy family, Nightingale volunteered to care for wounded soldiers during the Crimean War in 1854 and laid the foundations for modern nursing philosophy.
That heritage of caring for others while serving one’s country was honored at the School of Nursing’s annual Alumni Dinner March 1. Boackle, who presided over the ceremony as Nursing Alumni Chapter president, also donated an American flag to the school.
The flag, which he brought back from his latest deployment, was flown during a day filled with patient-transport missions in Afghanistan last summer.
Boackle returned home last fall after a four-month deployment to Helmand Province, Afghanistan, with the 651st Expeditionary Aeromedical Evacuation Squadron. He joined the guard in 2003 after graduating from the School of Nursing in 2001.
Combining military leadership skills with the responsibilities of critical-care transport is a good marriage, he says.
“I always knew I wanted to fly,” he said. “What I do for the Medical Center, I have a different scope of practice, but it’s complementary. One job helps me to be good at the other, and vice versa.”
During his four months serving as a flight nurse in the deadliest region of war-torn Afghanistan, Boackle helped provide emergency care for U.S. and coalition troops, Afghan civilians and even “bomb dogs” who hunt for improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
After returning home, Boackle said there’s always a period of readjustment, but it’s been eased considerably by the support he receives from his wife, Shayne — an educator for imaging services at UMMC — as well as his Medical Center coworkers.
Dr. Kim Hoover, who accepted the flag from Afghanistan and had it framed, calls Boackle the epitome of selfless service.
“He is clearly dedicated to saving lives and caring for others, regardless of whether this is as a flight nurse for UMHC or in a field hospital in Afghanistan,” Hoover said.
The School of Nursing’s military tribute also featured memories from retired alumni, including Julia McCormac (Class of 1965), who was a member of the Air Force Nursing Corps; Jan Evers (Class of 1960), who gave birth to her first child at Fort Polk, La., where her husband, Dr. Carl Evers, was stationed with a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital; and Brig. Gen. Becky Wade (Class of 1967), who was commissioned as a captain in 1976 with the Army National Guard.