Nurse Veteran Applies Lessons from Vietnam to PTSD in Today’s Healthcare Workforce

 

Stony Brook, N.Y. In honor of Veterans Day, the Stony Brook School of Nursing will present U.S. Army nurse veteran Joan Furey, RN, MA, a pioneer in the treatment of post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) in military nurses. At a time when many civilian nurses are working under unprecedented conditions, Furey’s understanding of PTSD in clinicians can inform efforts to care for those on the frontlines of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Furey enlisted as a U.S. Army nurse in 1968 at a time of civil unrest, not unlike our own. In 1969, she voluntarily deployed to Vietnam, where she was promoted to first lieutenant. She received a Bronze Star in recognition of her heroic service providing care to soldiers and civilians in an intensive care unit at an evacuation hospital in Vietnam’s Central Highlands. Upon her return, she earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Stony Brook University and a Master of Science in Nursing from New York University before eventually embarking on a three-decade career with the Department of Veteran’s Affairs (VA). 

Early on, Furey helped develop an education program to sensitize VA clinicians to the mental health needs of Vietnam era veterans. She says, “I had my own issues when I came home, and I had just, kind of, learned to live with them.” At the time, no one acknowledged the toll serving in a war zone could have on nurses. Observing PTSD in her patients made Furey realize she also had the condition.

Furey started to advocate for military nurses with PTSD. She conducted pioneering studies, established the first inpatient PTSD treatment program for women veterans and became Director of the Center for Women Veterans in Washington, D.C. 

Furey’s expertise and insights are especially relevant today. “As a nurse or a healthcare provider, you’re used to working in high stress environments, but the stress in a war zone and during COVID-19 far exceeds the stress that you would normally learn to deal with.”

Her presentation will draw on her research into the experience of Vietnam nurse veterans to illuminate the stressors facing nurses in civilian settings today. As healthcare institutions struggle to mitigate the pandemic’s toll on clinicians treating patients with COVID-19, Furey is reassuring. “There are ways to recover,” she says.

Furey’s talk is one in a series of lectures marking the Stony Brook School of Nursing’s 50th year and the 25th year of the school’s Midwifery Program. As luck would have it, these anniversaries fall in 2020, which the World Health Organization has dubbed the Year of the Nurse and the Midwife.

“These milestones mark decades of discovery and service in education, research, and practice by Stony Brook nurses,” says School of Nursing Dean Annette B. Wysocki, PhD, RN, FAAN. “This year also brought a crisis of historic, global proportions. Joan Furey’s insights into PTSD will be key in addressing the impact of the pandemic on healthcare personnel. She exemplifies the spirit of innovation and eagerness to help exhibited by the entire Stony Brook community this year.”

The lectures are free to the public and will be delivered remotely. Participants are asked to register in advance.

A photo of Joan Furey for use by the media is available upon request. 

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Stony Brook School of Nursing

The School of Nursing is one of six professional schools in the Health Sciences Center at Stony Brook University. Our mission is to prepare nurse leaders at all levels of practice to advance the health of the people of New York and the global community with a focus on the underserved. We accomplish this through innovative, high quality and accessible educational programs, clinical practice, research and public service. Our undergraduate pass rate on the NCLEX nurse licensing exam exceeds 93%, and our online master’s program is currently ranked #7 by U.S. News & World Report. For more information, visit https://nursing.stonybrookmedicine.edu/.

 

Stony Brook University, Stony Brook, N.Y.

Stony Brook University, widely regarded as a flagship in the State University of New York (SUNY) system, is one of America’s most dynamic public universities, a center of academic excellence and an internationally recognized research institution that is changing the world. After more than 60 years of existence, it’s ranked among the top 100 universities in the nation and the top 40 public universities. For more information, visit https://www.stonybrook.edu/about/history/.