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Two USAISR nurses among Top 25 of South Central Texas

By Dr. Steven Galvan | U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Public Affairs | Dec. 4, 2018

JOINT BASE SAN ANTONIO-FORT SAM HOUSTON, Texas —

Two nurses from the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center at Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston were named among the best 25 nurses of South Central Texas.

Michael Mueller and Tanya Luckado were selected as honorees for the Inaugural Best 25 Nurses of South Central Texas, sponsored by the South Central Texas Organization of Nurse Executives.

The Best 25 Nurses of South Central Texas celebration raises the awareness of the contributions of nurses to patient care, research, leadership, education and community service of the nurses practicing in the South Central Texas area.

In addition, the celebration builds the image of nursing by exemplifying excellence. It is a special honor for a nurse to be nominated by family members, patients, peers, former teachers, physicians and administrators.

Mueller is a staff registered nurse at the USAISR Burn Center Intensive Care Unit who serves as a primer for the ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation, also known as extracorporeal life support) and the current Burn Flight Team chief flight nurse.

“It's hard to explain how I feel about receiving this award,” Mueller said. “We all have an ego, but I can sincerely say that most of my peers I work with would also qualify for this honor to include our leadership.”

Mueller began his time at the burn center in 1991 when he was an active duty enlisted Soldier and a licensed vocational nurse. He stayed at the burn center until 1994 and returned in 2004 to the BICU as a civilian contractor licensed vocational nurse. In 2008, he earned his registered nurse license and transferred across town to work at the ICU at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center at JBSA-Lackland.

“At that time, burn nursing leadership required all registered nurses to have at least one year ICU experience in the RN position,” he said. “Thus, I was not allowed to stay here and make the transition from LVN to RN.”

A year later he received a call and asked if he was still interested in working at the BICU. Mueller accepted the offer and returned to the USAISR for the third time in 2009.

“I enjoy the unique challenges that BICU patients present,” Mueller said. “Although it is rewarding working with various patient demographics, it is extremely gratifying to care for our military population. This was very pronounced during the height of the war with all the OIF/OEF [Operation Iraqi Freedom/Operation Enduring Freedom] casualties the burn center was entrusted with.”

His nomination package for this honor was prepared by a team of nurses at the Burn Center. According to his write up: “This nominee possesses leadership qualities that surpass his colleagues. He is the epitome of competence, first establishing himself as an expert clinician upon whom other nurses, physicians and therapists can count for evidence-based care recommendations. His competencies extend beyond the standard skills in this highly specialized critical care unit, regularly providing extracorporeal life support to some of the sickest patients in South Texas.”

Luckado’s time at the Burn Center has a similar track. She was an active duty commissioned officer staff registered nurse from 2007-2010.  She returned in 2016 as a contractor nurse to work in the clinical research task area. Then in early 2018, Luckado returned for the third time to serve as Burn Program Manager.

When asked how it makes her feel to get this recognition, Luckado said, “Humble. I don’t do what I do for recognition but for service. Serving the patients and making the Burn Center one of the best places to receive care is the focus.”

Among the numerous justification points in her nomination package was this paragraph written by Kristen Lowe, chief executive officer at the Post Acute Medical Specialty Hospital of San Antonio: “Her outstanding leadership skills brought her back to the Burn ICU after retiring from the U.S. Army Nurse Corps. In her new role she is integral in planning, guiding and executing learning activities aimed at preparing high caliber ICU nurses. She possesses a unique sense of humility and recognizes that every team member has the potential to make a substantial contribution to the future of nursing. One of her key responsibilities is to coach, mentor and develop effective unit leaders and nurses. She has an attitude that is open to diversity, flexible, accountable and optimal for fostering a healthy work environment in a high stress Burn ICU.”

Lt. Col. Jodelle Schroeder, USAISR Deputy Commander for Nursing, said that the two nurses receiving this award is an incredible testament to the caliber of nurses on the Burn Center team.

“It is wonderful to have the opportunity to recognize our quiet professionals for the life-changing work they do every day,” Schroeder said. “The overall caliber of the nursing team in the USAISR is unmatched. I can't say enough about the amazing things they all do every day. They can do it all. They teach, coach, mentor and train other caregivers all while providing unparalleled care to the most gravely injured and ill patients there are.”