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Immaculata Nursing Program Prepares Graduates for U.S. Navy Medical Career

Michaela Dwyer

Immaculata nursing program graduate Michaela Dwyer ’21 worked hard to secure her job as a United States Navy nurse and commissioned officer on the USNS Mercy, one of the Navy’s two esteemed hospital ships. When not deployed on the Mercy, Dwyer is stationed at the Naval Medical Readiness Training Command in San Diego, California, where she dedicates herself full-time to Balboa Hospital’s inpatient psychiatric mental health ward.

Recently, she embarked on the 2024 Pacific Partnership Mission aboard the Mercy, traveling to the Marshall Islands, Solomon Islands, Palau and Chuuk along the Pacific Ocean. While Dwyer acknowledges that it is difficult to be away from her family for long periods, she cherishes the opportunities provided to her, exposing her to diverse cultures and fostering both professional and personal growth.

Navy ship USNS Mercy

USNS Mercy is the lead ship of her class of hospital ships.

Though time ashore allows for exploration, duty calls with demanding 12-hour shifts, during which Dwyer provides direct patient care for pre-and post-operative patients. While life aboard the ship can become routine, Dwyer and her Navy colleagues stay engaged through exercise, training sessions, and preparations for port stops.

While in port, the crew performs tasks aligned with their mission objectives. For example, medical staff members conduct subject matter expert exchange events within local communities, facilitating the exchange of knowledge and techniques between host nations and the U.S. Navy medical staff. During these events, the Mercy also serves as a hub for surgeries and medical care.

Hands-on nursing is exactly what Dwyer sought when she enrolled in the Navy Nurse Candidate program as an undergraduate nursing student at Immaculata.  She was one of only 60 nursing students chosen annually nationwide.

The experience Dwyer gained while fulfilling Immaculata’s clinical requirements at the VA Medical Center in Coatesville, Pennsylvania, equipped her for the work she is doing at Balboa Hospital’s mental health ward.“[Immaculata’s nursing program] prepared me clinically to do my job as a U.S. Navy nurse, but it also taught me to be a team player and take on tough leadership positions,” she said.  “Immaculata prepared me for the emotional and spiritual challenges inherent within the health care field, teaching me to be resilient.”

She aspires to transition into the role of a psychiatric nurse practitioner in the civilian sector. However, for now, she proudly serves her country aboard the USNS Mercy.

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