The journey for every nurse is different. This is true for Michelle Cummins, a registered nurse at the West Texas VA Health Care System. After being widowed, with six children to raise, Cummins worked hard to become a nurse.
Fresh out of nursing school, Cummins joined the Army and served for eight years as a captain, teaching first aid and emergency medical training to soldiers.
“If it wasn’t for them believing in me and seeing something in me, I don’t think I would have ever served in the Army. At the time, I didn’t have the confidence, but fortunately the recruiter saw potential in me.”
The support and motivation Cummins experienced over her career has developed a deep commitment to give back whenever she can. From helping patients or educating other nurses, Cummins has found great joy in serving as a nurse for the last 21 years.
An opportunity to continue giving back
When a call for help came from El Paso, Texas, which has been hit hard with COVID-19 cases, Cummins was compelled to help. For her, it was an opportunity to continue giving back. It was an opportunity to honor the people who saw something special in her.
On her first day at the William Beaumont Army Medical Center in El Paso, Cummins was blown away by the difficult situation facing the hospital. After a few days of shadowing and in-processing, Cummins was caring for patients in a mobile intensive care unit.
Cummins is seen above putting on personal protective equipment before heading into the mobile intensive care unit.
“As a nurse, I’ve worked in a number of environments,” she said. “I’ve worked in intensive care units, pediatrics and in the emergency room. With everything that I’ve experienced and done, especially in the military, it has all culminated in this moment.”
In just a few weeks in El Paso, Cummins has put to use all of her experiences, knowledge and skills honed over 21 years of nursing to support a community in need. Through this service, Cummins is most grateful for having the opportunity to share those skills and knowledge with a number of younger nurses working at the hospital.
“It’s about sharing knowledge.”
“We’re learning from each other. Really, it’s about sharing knowledge. I’m bringing a sense of old school and it mixes with what the younger nurses know.”
The work Cummins has experienced over the last few weeks in El Paso has been invaluable. The knowledge gained working in a COVID-19 intensive care unit will be helpful for Veterans and staff in the West Texas VA Health Care System.
“When COVID-19 hits home, I’ll have more knowledge and know-how which will help with difficult situations. I’ll be able to provide better care for my Veterans in West Texas,” she said.
West Texas VA Health Care System (WTVAHCS) proudly serves Veterans in 33 counties across 55,000 square miles of rural geography in West Texas and Eastern New Mexico. The George H. O’Brien, Jr. VA Medical Center is located in Big Spring, Texas, and serves as the headquarters for the Wilson & Young Medal of Honor VA Outpatient Clinic located in Midland/Odessa, Texas, and four other CBOCs located in Abilene, San Angelo, and Hobbs, NM. Additionally, WTVAHCS operates two outreach clinics in Stamford, TX, and Fort Stockton, TX. Two Vet Centers also provide services and are located in Abilene, TX, and Midland, TX. On average, the health care system supports more than 170,000 outpatient visits annually.
William Hatton is an Army Veteran and public affairs specialist for the West Texas VA HCS.