Back to Top Skip to main content Skip to sub-navigation

Determined to Serve: Critical care nurse joins the Reserve at age 50

Two military healthcare workers wearing masks Capt. Jennifer McGuigan, left, recently joined the Air Force Reserve at age 50. Facing a shortage of critical care nurses, the Reserve granted an age waiver for McGuigan. Here she is pictured with civilian co-worker Iris Appenrodt. (Courtesy photo)

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | Coronavirus | Nursing in the Military Health System

SCOTT AIR FORCE BASE, Ill. — In 12-plus years of working at a Veteran’s Administration Hospital, Capt. Jennifer McGuigan has heard many heart-wrenching stories from family members of those in her care as a critical care nurse.

She remembers one story in particular that changed her life and inspired her to join the Air Force Reserve at the age of 50.

“Many years ago, I cared for a Vietnam veteran who had suffered cardiac arrest at home,” she said. “The first responders were able to get his heart beating, but he never did breathe on his own. He was brought to our ICU (intensive care unit), and we cared for him for about a week until his family decided to withdraw life-sustaining treatments. While he was in our ICU, his father, who was a World War II veteran, shared with me how difficult it was for him when his son volunteered to serve in Vietnam. He knew firsthand what his son would experience, and even though it broke his heart, he felt he had to honor his son’s decision and support his desire to serve.”

It was stories like this one that made McGuigan feel particularly close to the families of the veterans in her care. Her children were only 8 and 9 at the time, but his words forever changed how she viewed the families of the veterans under her care.

“My kids are now old enough to join the military themselves, and even though they have not, I think of that World War II vet often,” she said. “I want to be able to help care for those serving our country for all of those parents who have had to struggle through the same situation as that World War II vet.”

With her children grown, McGuigan decided the time was right to do something about her desire to help those families. So at the age of 48 she set out to become a critical care nurse in the Air Force Reserve.

“I had heard from friends in the Reserve that there was a need for critical care nurses,” McGuigan said. “My husband served in the Air Force for 10 years, and loved it. When we discussed it, he was extremely supportive and excited that I wanted to serve in the Reserve.”

Next, she had to tell her kids of her plans, and to her surprise they were equally supportive.

The Air Force Reserve does indeed have a critical need for critical care nurses. These nurses have an important mission during wartime and have also been in high demand during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“The need for critical care nurses was highlighted during the response to COVID-19,” said Col. Sherry Hemby, Air Force Reserve Command’s command nurse and career field manager. “Many patients diagnosed with COVID-19 had difficulty breathing and were placed on ventilators to assist in their recovery. Critical care nurses, with their amazing attention to detail, were needed to watch every minute. They assessed changes in their patient’s condition and reacted with the most skilled care.

“They pulled patients through the COVID crisis. They held the hands of their patients when their family members could not, encouraging and cheering their patients on to fight for recovery.”

A retired Air Force colonel recommended McGuigan to Hemby and the command nurse reached out to the critical care nurse.

“I wanted to make sure she realized what was required for the job,” Hemby said. “When we talked about deployments, required training and physical demands, she was all in. She told me that fitness had always been important to her and she had no doubt she could pass the fitness requirements.”

Master Sgt. Felicia Mintz, an AFRC health professions recruiter, was McGuigan’s recruiter for most of the process.

“Capt. McGuigan was wonderful to work with,” Mintz said. “She always had a positive attitude and was on top of anything I needed from her. The biggest challenge was the age waiver process.

“Many times the older leads are already in management/administrative positions and don’t meet the hands-on experience needed,” Mintz said. “As a Reservist, you need to be able to maintain your critical care certifications through your civilian employment. If you’re not working in a critical care environment, you will not be able to do this.”

Another challenge is being physically qualified through a Military Entrance Processing Station.

“It doesn’t matter what age the applicant is, they have to meet the same physical requirements for entry as an 18- or 20-year-old,” Mintz said.

“The process of joining was a bit like running a race,” McGuigan said. “A lot of it is mental endurance. Going to MEPS was one of the bigger challenges. If I remember correctly, the paperwork went back and forth at least three times before I had my appointment. My favorite part of MEPS was when I was referred to as ‘a person of advanced age.’ That made me laugh out loud.”

In total, the process that lead to McGuigan’s oath took more than a year and a half, but she never waivered in her desire to serve.

She was sworn into the Reserve June 6 via video teleconference. After 18 months of striving to join the Reserve, the day had finally arrived.

“After all the ups and down, I think there was a part of me that wasn’t entirely sure it would happen,” she said. “After I took the oath and everyone started calling me captain, I think I giggled every time. It was such an amazing honor that Col. Hamby was able to do my oath by Zoom meeting and that my family and friends were able to be there.”

Mintz found inspiration working with McGuigan.

“Her determination is extremely motivating,” Mintz said. “Capt. McGuigan is a great example to the younger generation about perseverance. There was never any guarantee she was going to be able to join, but her mindset was to keep moving forward in the process until she either couldn’t go anymore or she was able to oath in.”

Now that McGuigan is officially a Reserve Citizen Airman, she is ready to do whatever is asked of her.

“I don’t have expectations other than to serve where I am most needed and where my skill set can be of the most help,” she said. “I will proudly serve in whatever way I can.”

Disclaimer: Re-published content may be edited for length and clarity. Read original post.

You also may be interested in...

Army Public Health Center provides update on Long COVID risks

Article Around MHS
12/1/2021
COVID19 Symptoms

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Post-COVID conditions are a wide range of new, returning, or ongoing health problems people can experience four or more weeks after first being infected with the virus that causes COVID-19.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus

JTF Coyote begins pediatric COVID-19 clinics as adult booster vaccination numbers increase

Article Around MHS
11/23/2021
Military health personnel giving the COVID-19 vaccine

The Vermont National Guard now supports the state's response to the COVID-19 pandemic with vaccinations for youth in the 5 to 11 age group and booster clinics for the general adult population.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

MHS Reaches 6 Million Doses of Vaccine Against COVID

Article
11/10/2021
Airmen of the 139th Airlift Wing, Missouri Air National Guard, receive COVID-19 immunizations as a part of the federal mandate at Rosecrans Air National Guard Base, St. Joseph, Missouri, Oct. 2, 2021. The 139th Medical Group oversees the operation. .

Military passes 6 million mark for COVID-19 shots administered across the Military Health System.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine | COVID-19 Information for Military Treatment Facility Directors

COVID 19 Vaccine Is Now Available for Children 5 to 11

Article
11/9/2021
5-year-old girl in mask reads a book by herself

COVID-19 vaccines for 5-11 year olds are ready now through MHS

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Getting the COVID-19 Vaccine

More Than 95% of Active Duty Have Received COVID-19 Vaccine

Article
10/15/2021
Female hospital corpsman gives a COVID-19 vaccine injection to a sailor in her left arm

Service members continue to line up for COVID-19 vaccinations.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Information for Military Treatment Facility Directors

USECAF receives insight into COVID19 vaccinations at Reserve wing

Article Around MHS
10/8/2021
Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones visits with 433rd Airlift Wing members at Wilford Hall Ambulatory Surgical Center, Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland, Texas, Oct. 2, 2021.

Under Secretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones visited the 433rd Airlift Wing here to meet with Reserve Citizen Airmen leaders on mandatory COVID-19 vaccination efforts, Oct. 2, 2021.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts | Coronavirus

Mask Mouth Does Not Exist, Dentists Say

Article
10/6/2021
A bunch of children wearing face masks walk on a city street.

Mask mouth doesn’t exist, Internet chatter to the contrary, dentists say.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus

Compassionate Caring with COVID Vax Commitment

Article Around MHS
10/6/2021
A  female doctor poses for a photo.

When pregnant patients have an appointment with Lt. Cmdr. Megan Northup at Naval Hospital Bremerton, they get more than a qualified and caring OB/GYN physician.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Health Promotion duo optimizes health on Incirlik Air Base

Article Around MHS
9/30/2021
Air Force Capt. Sydney Sloan, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion element chief (right), and Air Force Senior Airman Gloriann Manapsal, 39th Operational Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion technician (left), promote making healthy choices at the Sultan’s Inn Dining Facility on Incirlik Air Base, Turkey.

The 39th Operation Medical Readiness Squadron health promotion team provides and integrates evidence-based programs to optimize the health and readiness, even during these unprecedented times.

Recommended Content:

Health Readiness | Total Force Fitness | Coronavirus

COVID-19 Booster Shots are Now Available – What You Need to Know

Article
9/30/2021
Containers of the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine. Each vial contains six doses for vaccination against the COVID-19 virus.

Booster shots are now recommended for millions of people – but many others will have to wait for additional approvals.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Myths & facts about the vax - debunking common COVID-19 vaccine myths

Article
9/29/2021
Myths and facts about the vax

The COVID-19 vaccine has been mandated across the Department of Defense and despite its demonstrated effectiveness and safety, a host of myths have left some Airmen and Guardians hesitant to receive it. While social media posts and some news outlets may make it harder to keep up with what is fact or fiction, the science is clear … approved COVID-19 vaccines work.

Recommended Content:

COVID-19 Vaccine Toolkit | Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

Retired colonel leads Fort Irwin COVID response mission

Article Around MHS
9/28/2021
Army Col. Richard Hopkins, the COVID-19 response coordinator with Weed Army Community Hospital, collects paperwork from a Soldier who received the COVID-19 vaccine at a vaccination event.

Retired Army Col. Richard Hopkins volunteered under the Army’s COVID-19 Retiree Recall Program to return to service as the COVID-19 response coordinator for Weed Army Community Hospital and Fort Irwin, California.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

ARNORTH military support to FEMA begins in Tennessee, continues in five states

Article Around MHS
9/24/2021
Prepared COVID-19 vaccine shots wait to be administered to an Airman. Members of the 134th Air Refueling Wing were eligible to receive their COVID-19 vaccines during Unit Training Assembly here May 2nd, 2021.

At the request of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, approximately 20 military medical personnel deployed to Tennessee to support civilian healthcare workers treating COVID-19 patients in local hospitals.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

COVID-19 can lead to long-term health concerns

Article Around MHS
9/23/2021
Debra Lamb, a 30-year civil service veteran at Ft. Carson, contracted the COVID-19 virus late in 2020 and experienced a harrowing ordeal before partially recovering months later.

Debra Lamb, a 30-year civil service veteran at Ft. Carson, contracted the COVID-19 virus late in 2020 and experienced a harrowing ordeal before partially recovering months later.

Recommended Content:

Coronavirus | COVID-19 Vaccine Efforts

DODEA Schools Keeps On With In-Person Classes, and Fall Sports, Too

Article
9/23/2021
Kids playing football

DODEA schools are striving to continue in-person learning in the 2021-22 school year.

Recommended Content:

Children's Health | Coronavirus
<< < 1 2 3 4 5  ... > >> 
Showing results 1 - 15 Page 1 of 37

DHA Address: 7700 Arlington Boulevard | Suite 5101 | Falls Church, VA | 22042-5101

Some documents are presented in Portable Document Format (PDF). A PDF reader is required for viewing. Download a PDF Reader or learn more about PDFs.