I Am Navy Medicine – and Nurse Practitioner – Lt. Cmdr. Samantha Jennings at NHB

US Navy | 2023-11-21

By Navy Courtesy Story

.S. Army Maj. Paul Yi (Uniformed Services University of Health Science Doctor of Nursing Practice and Family Nurse Practitioner student), Lt. Cmdr. Samantha Jennings, Cmdr. Carolyn Ellison (Family Nurse Practitioner), Cmdr. Teri Ryals (Certified Nurse Midwife), L.t Cmdr. Brad O’Keefe (Pediatric Nurse Practitioner), Lt. Daniella Kleker (Family Nurse Practitioner), Ms. Shelly Robbins (Family Nurse Practitioner), and Cmdr. Rachel Newnam (Family Nurse Practitioner). Courtesy photo provided by Cmdr. Carolyn Ellison.
Although National Nurse Practitioner Week was just held November 12-18, 2023, the theme “recognizing heroes in health care” still resonates at Naval Hospital Bremerton.

For one Navy Nurse Corps officer assigned to NHB, being a nurse practitioner has led to a winding career path as an unsung hero in health care.

She has traveled a circuitous route to nurse those in need across the vastness of the Pacific and Mediterranean, provided health care to those transplanted from their home, culture and country almost half the world away and has now returned to where her journey started.

Such is the calling for Lt. Cmdr. Samantha Jennings, a Silverdale, Washington native and Central Kitsap High School [“Go Cougs!” she exclaimed] 2003 graduate who is back in her roots currently assigned at NHB as site director for Uniformed Services University of Health Science Graduate School of Nursing.

Jennings interest in Navy Medicine as a career choice is a direct reflection of her father.

“My father was a submariner who had experience in recruiting. I was looking for a way to pay for college and found the Nurse Candidate Reserve Officer Training Corps program with his help,” said Jennings. “After completing Navy Reserve Officer Training Corps at the University of Washington, I started out as an ensign in pediatric inpatient nursing.”

Navy Medicine has taken Jennings to the Mediterranean for duty at Sigonella, Italy and across the Pacific to Guam.

“I have had opportunities to work in diverse settings of nursing, including pediatrics, labor and delivery, medical/surgical, emergency and now as a provider,” Jennings said, adding that her most memorable duty has been providing direct support to Department of Homeland Security as part of Operation Allies Welcome.

“The most rewarding assignment I have had was in support of Operation Allies Welcome where my team assisted 7,000 Afghan evacuees in Indiana,” stated Jennings, who along with other Nurse Corps officers make up approximately half of the 100 nurses at NHB and three branch health clinics located on Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, Naval Station Everett and Puget Sound Naval Shipyard.

There are more than 4,000 active duty and reserve nurses throughout the Navy handling such responsibilities as delivering care at the bedside, as licensed independent providers, instructors and more.

Many Navy Nurse Corps officers – like Jennings – have advanced training in specific specialties such as ambulatory care nursing, emergency/trauma and operational nursing. Jennings’ forte as a nurse practitioner also includes distinctive disciplines of family nurse practitioner, mental health nurse practitioner and pediatric nurse practitioner.

“A nurse practitioner is a nurse who combines an advance degree with previous nurse experience to provide care as a provider. I became a nurse practitioner to advance my nursing knowledge, capacity and independence,” explained Jennings who achieved her Bachelor of Science in Nursing in 2007 from Seattle University followed by her Doctorate of Nursing Practice in 2017 from Uniformed Services University of Health Sciences.

Jennings and other Navy nurse practitioners continue to be in high demand in supporting Navy Medicine’s commitment to operational readiness.

“As military medicine pivots to the demands of operational readiness, the nurse practitioners have done the same. We worked tirelessly next to our colleagues during the COVID missions and Afghan resettlement operations. Navy family nurse practitioners are heavily utilized in overseas billets and senior FNPs can be selected for senior medical officer billets in Poland, Romania, and Bahrain. Our community is working hard to demonstrate our capability for future operational missions,” explained Jennings.

Jennings attests that nurse practitioners are integral in a military treatment facility setting like NHB in helping with the many duties in providing care to active duty, retirees and family members.

“Nurse practitioners work alongside our provider colleagues to provide independent, evidence-based care. We are board certified in acute care, critical care, family, gerontology, neonatology, pediatrics, mental health, and women’s health. At NHB, most of us apply our clinical skills in an outpatient setting. We are also leaders, teachers, and researchers within this military treatment facility,” Jennings said.

According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor and Statistics, there’s not just a nationwide nursing shortage. It’s global. Doing more with less personnel and not having enough hours in the day can – and does - present specific challenges.

“The most challenging aspect of being a family nurse practitioner in Family Practice is learning that there will always be more work to do,” noted Jennings. “With a full-time empanelment of approximately 1,300 patients, there is always more to do for patients. Whether that is sending diagnostic results with a plan for follow-on care, reviewing specialty reports, or seeing patients face-to-face or virtually, there is always more work to do.”

Putting in that work and providing for those entrusted to her care does offer fulfilment after logging in long hours.

“The most gratifying aspect of being a family nurse practitioner in Family Practice is getting to know your patients and meet their medical needs while providing comfort and reassurance,” stated Jennings.