Anything But Typical
CDR Greg Nezat, CRNA, Nurse Corps, USN
“If all I did every day was research, I’d probably get a little bored. If all I did was anesthesia, I’d probably get a little bored. If all I did was teach, I’d probably get a little bored. But in this position, I get to do all three. And that’s pretty nice.”
— CDR Greg Nezat, CRNA, Nurse Corps, USN
Years ago, Greg Nezat took a call from a nursing school friend. “I was a Navy Lieutenant and told her about my responsibilities and how I was going into the anesthesia program,” he recalls.
What surprised him was this: “She was still doing pretty much the same thing she had been doing four to five years before – when she got out of nursing school.”
For the past 22 years, Commander Nezat’s job has been anything but typical. After earning his BSN at the University of Louisiana with the help of a Navy scholarship and commissioning as a Navy Nurse and Officer in 1991, this native of Opelousas, La., has divided his time between serving as a nurse anesthetist, teacher and researcher.
“When you look at my career, I’ve always done many different things. That’s true of any Officer,” he says. He also points out, “If you’re going to join the Navy, don’t think it’s just going to be a 9-to-5 nursing job. It’s not. And I think that’s a good thing.”
Graduating with several advanced degrees but with none of the debt many civilians have is another good thing. Besides his BSN, the Navy has funded his master’s degree in nurse anesthesia from Georgetown University as well as a PhD in nursing research from Rush University in Chicago. Currently, he’s pursuing a national security master’s degree at the U.S. Naval War College.
“They paid for all that,” he says. “If you’re a civilian nurse and want to go back to school, you have to start giving things up. Instead of being paid as a full-time employee, you’re paid as a half-time employee. And there go your benefits. It’s a little scarier to do it without the backdrop of the Navy behind you.”
CDR Nezat enjoys being a highly educated professional, a valued member of an elite medical team, and a respected peer of both doctors and dentists. He also acknowledges that the desire to be a leader has helped him to advance quickly throughout his career.
“The people who stay in the Navy are people who enjoy the role as an Officer as much as the role as a nurse. It’s leadership. There are expectations beyond your clinical responsibilities.”
Over the course of his career, CDR Nezat has served in San Diego; Okinawa, Japan; Afghanistan; and the Naval Medical Center (NMC) Portsmouth in Virginia – where he is currently Associate Director for Research Programs and Nursing Research Department Head at NMC Portsmouth.
Besides earning numerous nursing and research awards, CDR Nezat’s research has been widely published in medical journals, and he’s made presentations at national and international medical conferences.
“There isn’t a typical day, and that’s what I like about it.”
You Just Don’t Know
“I was in Afghanistan for most of 2010…on a wartime mission. I was with the Marines. I ran a surgical team. We basically set up a tent hospital in the northern part of Helmand Province, which is a hotbed of activity in Afghanistan.
We were there to take care of the Marines, but the fact is, the majority of our patients were Afghans. And the thing is – you don’t know who they are. You don’t know if they’re a bad guy…if they’re Taliban…or if they’re just some farmer in the wrong place at the wrong time.
They don’t have uniforms. They don’t have ID tags. These folks have nothing. I mean, they literally have nothing…a mud hut and maybe a little water coming down from the mountains or a stream.
Before going over there, I remember thinking to myself…if I’m treating a bad guy, how do I really treat him as well as everyone else? Can I really do that? Actually, the answer is pretty easy. You take care of them just like everyone else. When a patient shows up with part of his neck blown off, sitting there naked and bleeding…you don’t really think about it. You just do your job.
I can tell you: so many of those patients were civilians – and many of them kids. Most we dealt with probably would have died without us there. I wouldn’t exactly call that a humanitarian mission, but it’s part of why we’re there.”
— CDR Greg Nezat, CRNA, Nurse Corps, USN