A gifted nurse leader, Major Lindsey Whelan ’09 serves her community and her country. Integrity First, Service before Self, and Excellence in all we do, the U.S. Air Force’s core values, guide her in meeting life’s challenges.
When did you realize your calling to nursing?
Lindsey: Caring for others has always come very naturally to me. As a young adult, I cared for my grandfather through his lung cancer diagnosis and into hospice care until he passed. This early familiarity with healthcare, and nursing specifically, inspired my career choice. In high school, I took the Health Occupations Students of America (HOSA) vocational program, which enabled me to get my LNA and solidified my desire to pursue nursing as a lifelong career.
How has your career progressed?
Lindsey: My first job was as a medical-surgical staff nurse at Elliot Hospital. I loved that job, but my passion was always to work in the Emergency Department (ED). I took a position in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) when there weren’t any positions available in the ED and quickly fell in love with the ICU environment and critical care nursing. After a few years, I became a nurse manager, which brought me into the world of patient safety and quality. Today, I am the Trauma Program Manager for Elliot Health System, responsible for systems processes, quality patient outcomes, program development, community outreach, and accreditation standards for the American College of Surgeons Committee on Trauma verification as a Level II Trauma Center.
What drew you to military service?
Lindsey: I was inspired by one of my Nursing Instructors, Pat Hagan, who served as a Navy Nurse. She gave a presentation on her experience and showed us pictures of her deployments. From that day on, I was interested in pursuing military nursing. I considered the Navy for a while and one night while working in the ICU, a co-worker said, “You know you could do all of this in the back of a cargo plane.” She was describing the Critical Care Air Transport Team (CCATT) mission at Pease Air National Guard Base. We researched the mission, and I was hooked. I commissioned into the Air National Guard in 2012 as a CCATT Nurse and began pursuing my career in Aerospace Medicine. At the same time, I was dual-trained to the CBRNE Response Force Package (CERFP), which is a homeland military medical response mission. The CERFP mission requires training in Incident Command Systems (FEMA), HAZMAT, biological/chemical warfare agents, and radiation exposure in addition to my critical care knowledge and skills.
What are your responsibilities as Chief Nurse for the NH Air National Guard?
Lindsey: As an Air Refueling Wing, our unit’s primary mission is refueling aircraft during both peace and wartime operations, and as the Chief Nurse, I’m responsible for keeping our airmen fit to fuel so that our mission can continue. My service extends beyond Pease Air Force Base into the community. Most recently, I was called upon to take the lead in New Hampshire’s COVID-19 vaccination distribution. At the State Health Department’s Phase 1 clinic opening, I administered the first shots of the Moderna vaccine to City of Nashua frontline staff.
What do you view as the greatest impacts of your service?
Lindsey: For many years I felt the greatest impact I could make was to pursue every ounce of expertise, professionalism, leadership experience, and clinical skill I could obtain. My desire for impact was focused on what I, as an individual, could achieve. As I’ve grown, I’ve found the greatest impact I can make is to help others understand how they too can impact our community and those in our care. Individual efforts are futile in the face of a pandemic like we are experiencing now. Without authentic, transparent, and transformative leadership through change (or perhaps through chaos), we will all fail—the military has taught me that. Our greatest impact is not measured by my individual success, it is measured by the teams I help lead and their success stories.