Off Duty Nurse Saves Ferry Passenger's Life
The Navy Nurse Corps is a critical component of the United States Navy's medical team, providing nursing care to active military, their families, and civilians worldwide. Recently, one such officer, Lieutenant Holly Sapien, demonstrated the Navy Nurse Corps' dedication to duty and service by saving a passenger's life when a Ferry found itself grounded on a beach.
Washington State Ferry Runs Aground
On April 15th, at approximately 4:30 pm a state ferry running from Bremerton to Seattle, Washington, ran aground and was stuck for hours after losing power.
There were 596 passengers and 15 crew members aboard the ferry when an announcement was made 30 minutes into the trip to “brace for impact.” The ferry slowly angled into the beach on Bainbridge Island for a soft landing.
Among them was U.S. Navy Lieutenant Holly Sapien, a Navy Nurse Corps Officer with almost ten years of naval experience. “Once grounded, life jackets were passed out if there was a need to abandon ship,” Lt. Holly Sapien mentioned while recalling the event.
Saving a Patient Having a Seizure Onboard
As a passenger, Sapien responded immediately when she heard a cry for medical help. She found a fellow passenger having a grand mal seizure and quickly took action to protect his airway and prevent aspiration. “I had to get him out of the seat he was in. I had to get him on his side to protect his airway and prevent aspiration.” Sapien recalled her plan of action.
Lt. Sapien has almost ten years of naval experience and worked at Naval Medical Center Portsmouth, Virginia, where she had cared for and intervened with patients having a grand mal seizure before. “That was in a medical environment, with trained medical staff ready to help. This was the first time not in a hospital setting to respond to such an event,” she said.
Sapien's training and experience in caring for patients in a medical environment kicked in despite being outside a hospital setting. “This was the first time not in a hospital setting to respond to such an event,” She said. “We all take these classes for our professional development but never really know when we’re going actually to use the skills.”
She cared for the passenger until the US Coast Guard could come and help evacuate the patient.
“It’s nice to be there when needed and be able to jump in and help out to give peace of mind to another when there’s no hospital nearby,” said Sapien.
Sapien's role as a Navy Nurse Corps Officer involves providing nursing care anywhere in the world, and she has taken classes from the Navy's Tactical Combat Care courses and Basic Life Support (BLS) training to enhance her professional development and preparedness for emergencies. “We all take these classes for our professional development but never really know when we’re going to actually use the skills,” she said.
Reflecting on the incident, Sapien emphasized the importance of being ready to help when needed and giving peace of mind to others, especially when no hospital was nearby “It’s nice to be there when needed and be able to jump in and help out to give peace of mind to another when there’s no hospital nearby.”
The low tide starts at 8 pm, and around 8:30 pm, rescue boats made several trips to get the passengers off the stranded ferry. Around 10 pm, Sapien and the other passengers were eventually rescued and safely taken to Bremerton.
When everything was over, and help came, Sapien commented, “We waited around for four or five hours before finally deciding to get off on one of the fast ferries called in to assist.”
What is a Navy Nurse Corps Officer?
Navy Nurse Corps Officers are members of the United States Navy as Staff Corps Officers working alongside the healthcare team. These officers are considered experts in their field. They are part of the Navy's Staff Corps Officers, including attorneys, logistic specialists, chaplains, physicians, and in this case, a nurse. They deliver nursing care anywhere in the world they may be stationed.
Navy Nurse Corps Officer Responsibilities
Navy Nurse Corps Officers assist those in the armed forces, their families, and civilians worldwide who need care. They have the same duties and responsibilities as civilian nurses and encompass many different nursing specialties.
In addition to their duties in the military, Navy Nurse Corps Officers often assist civilians in the event of natural disasters, public health crises, and humanitarian missions worldwide. These officers may be deployed to provide relief in areas affected by natural disasters or conflicts, delivering care to the local population or American citizens in need.
Navy Nurse Corps Officers are held to high professional, ethics, and leadership standards. They are also expected to be effective communicators, team players, and leaders who can work collaboratively with other healthcare professionals to deliver the highest quality of care to their patients in situations that are or become dire.
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