As our country unknowingly stood on the brink of change, Marie Field, RN was stepping into a new leadership role as Air National Guard (ANG) Assistant to the Chief Nurse of the Air Force. This position is one that requires vision and strategic planning for the advancement of Air Force Nursing Service. After September 11, Field’s role expanded to include the task of planning and preparing military medical assets for homeland support. Field, who is also the clinical nurse educator in BWH’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU), finds that her civilian job has never been more closely aligned with her military duties.
The art of balance has become a way of life for Field, who has juggled a career in nursing with a series of prominent roles in the military for more than 24 years. And while her two jobs can literally be worlds apart at times, this balancing act becomes more manageable knowing a common goal always ties her duties together. Whether arriving at work through the doors of Francis Street or through the gates of an Air Force base, Field has a focused mission – serving others for the greater good.
With two years of nursing experience under her belt, Field joined the Air Force Reserves in 1978, serving as a flight nurse in California. After ten years in the air, Field’s flight nurse days were put on hold to take on new leadership roles with the Massachusetts Air National Guard at the 104th Fighter Wing in Westfield, Massachusetts. Field’s leadership earned her a position as both the 104th Medical Squadron Chief Nurse and lastly the Medical Squadron Commander. As commander, Field was responsible for overseeing all medical operations and medical support for the wing, a role that thrust her to the forefront of international affairs. Under her leadership, 700 guardsmen including nine members of her medical team, were deployed to the crisis in Kosovo.
Three years after receiving a prestigious promotion to colonel, Field applied for a highly selective and distinguished position as the ANG Assistant to the Chief Nurse of the Air Force. In May 2001 Field again rose to the challenge and accepted the Air Force’s offer to join their senior leadership ranks and be promoted to the rank of Brigadier General. From California to Massachusetts, Field found Washington D.C. was now home to her military work.
In her current leadership role, Field is called upon to develop policy and plan for the future of Air Force Nursing Service. She is an advisor on policy related to nursing recruitment, retention, training and readiness. Field also serves as a liaison between professional military and civilian nursing leaders.
Her job is “varied and exciting,” described Field. One week Field travels to Puerto Rico with the ANG Air Surgeon team to establish aeromedical evacuation support for US troops working in Central and South America. Yet another week, she is back at Bolling or Andrews Air Force Base grappling with the challenge of defining how to provide medical and psychological support for those individuals who first respond to a national crisis whether it be at home or abroad. But, no matter where her travels take her, Field’s nursing ties to BWH are fluid and fortified.
“We have a new way of looking at a traditional role,” said Field, describing Air Force nursing. “It is now a nurse’s role and responsibility to be ready for homeland support. We must face the fact that one of our American cities became a battlefield on September 11, 2001. This requires educating, training and preparing our nurses for homeland support and security issues.”
When describing this role, Field was quick to point out that her position as a nurse educator at BWH has prepared her well for the challenges that lie ahead. “Working at an academic medical center, I have gained experience and knowledge in cutting-edge care,” Field added. As a nurse educator, Field finds that each day presents her with a new opportunity to enhance and refine her teaching and coaching skills. “I am continually challenged to be well-versed in the latest technology and research. Being very aware of how to educate staff and develop curriculum for BWH’s NICU is guiding me in my new role with the Air Force,” she concluded.
While honing her teaching skills, Field is also able to develop a leadership style that suits both her civilian and military jobs. At BWH she has taken the initiative to be creative. She has worked along side NICU nursing management in collaboration with other disciplines to introduce new initiatives and programs, such as the NICU’s Kangaroo Care Program and the NICU’s blitz education days. Field was also part of the planning group that put together the hospital’s first Homeland Security Conference held this past February (see article on left). The conference was truly a marriage of Field’s jobs, bringing together her strength and expertise as a clinical educator and her rich knowledge of emergency preparedness from a military perspective.
“In both my roles, I find it is vital to always maintain a vision of what is to come,” said Field. With the courage to look ahead and the ambition to take on new challenges, Field’s unique leadership style promises new advances in cutting-edge care both here in BWH’s NICU and for thousands of guardsmen across the country.