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Career nurse mentors future generations

  • Published
  • By Senior Airman Ceaira Young
  • 23rd Wing Public Affairs

As a second lieutenant, Lt. Col. Heather Perez evaluated patients based on their various ailments, determining what type of care they needed -- sometimes lifesaving.

Fast forward 22-years and those beginnings seem like a lifetime ago to Perez, who is the 23rd Medical Operation Support Squadron commander in charge of approximately 300 nurses and medical technicians.

“I love this job; we take care of the warrior, the military family and retirees,” Perez said. “[It’s about] making a difference in people’s lives for the better -- whether [it’s] in people’s health or in my people’s careers through mentoring as a nurse.”

Now, Perez spends her days ensuring her Airman have what they need to provide their patients with the best medical care possible.

“As the chief nurse, I oversee all of the nursing practices and make sure we are meeting the standards of practice,” Perez said. “Whether it is tools for every day nursing practices or tools to make them successful in their military or civilian careers, I want them to be successful. That’s going to help them be the best nurses or technicians they can be in taking care of their patients.

“Sometimes we don’t focus as much on the mentorship of our civilians, officers and Airmen, but I try to focus on that,” Perez added. “I develop them, so that they don’t have to go through the same struggles that I may have [gone] through. I try to empower them and give them the knowledge I have, because I don’t need to hoard it. Knowledge is power for them, and the more they have, the better they’re going to be.”

Perez uses her vast nursing experiences to improve medical processes, ensure patient safety and manage education and training.

“Every day, our nurses and techs are interacting with patients and sometimes have to make decisions that will affect the lives of those patients,” said Master Sgt. Jason Bradley, 23rd MDOS superintendent. “Knowing Lt Col. Perez has confidence in us and in our training processes provides a level of self-assurance that enables our staff to do the right thing at the right time. She is able to take the compassionate quality of being a nurse and use that as a strength to lead our [Airmen] in the dynamic healthcare setting.

“Having an experienced nurse like Lieutenant Colonel Perez lets us take a smart measured approach to problem solving,” Bradley added. “She knows what questions to ask, and if we don't know the answers, she probably knows someone who does. That kind of experience is invaluable and hard to find.”