ASU honors unsung heroes providing medical care for military - KAIT Jonesboro, AR - Region 8 News, weather, sports

ASU honors unsung heroes providing medical care for military

JONESBORO, AR (KAIT) – Many may be unaware that National Nurse Anesthetists Week wrapped up Saturday. The week commemorates all the people that almost everyone else wants there during surgery, and their skills are highly coveted in war zones.

"They are very highly compensated people in their private lives," Dr. Cassandra Massey said about Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists, or CRNAs. "To lay that to the side, to disrupt their life to go out and to do what this country asked of them, that's what they do."

Massey teaches CRNA students at Arkansas State University, the only school in the state to offer an anesthesia program. On Saturday afternoon, the Arkansas Association of Nurse Anesthetists convened on campus to honor Lt. Col. Benjamin Campbell. Campbell has been deployed overseas multiple times, and he is one of many in his profession caring for those fighting on the frontlines.

"It's like we're taking care of the heroes. We're just there to do our part for them," Campbell said shortly after accepting a plaque at a reception at the Reynolds Building.

Campbell is a CRNA and has spent 26 years in the military. Nurse anesthetists and the military have been closely linked, as CRNAs have provided most anesthesia care since World War One.

"It's just kind of the secret behind the mask. Nobody really knows who you are," Campbell noted. "It's kind of nice to get recognized every once in a while, but we do it for the satisfaction of the job, not the recognition."

He was most recently deployed to Afghanistan, his fifth trip abroad. His wife, also a CRNA, has been called on four deployments, but she has never gone to Iraq or Afghanistan. Their experiences are similar to other CRNAs that have entered the military, many facing deployments almost every 18 months. 

"You have a whole dynamic of people that that person you're responsible for," Dr. Massey added, "and you're trying your best to make sure you get that father, mother, sister, brother home."

Massey says her students will become highly skilled upon graduation with many acquiring jobs locally. She hopes, however, that veterans like Jim Hunn will influence them to think about giving back to their country.

"It was the most gratifying 25-plus years of my life," Hunn said, who is now a retired colonel and CRNA.

He mainly taught anesthesia to Army cadets, serving in Germany, Korea and Vietnam. He says it was privilege to take care of the soldiers.

"Yes, we saw a lot of things that we would like to forget," Hunn said, adding: "but a lot of things we're proud of too."

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