Vets deploy critical care in the ICU

November 7, 2016  //  FOUND IN: Our Employees,

Nate Hicks, left, and Jeff Ash, right, with their children.

Jeff Ash and Nate Hicks find it easy to work together. After all, the pair of cardiovascular ICU nurses share similar backgrounds and values thanks to their military service.

“No matter what happens, I know Nate has my back,” Jeff said of his colleague. “He’ll work with me to make sure our patients are getting the best care possible.”

Jeff was a member of the U.S. Navy from 1987-1990, serving a stint on the USS Wisconsin battleship right out of high school. He was following in his father’s footsteps, a former machinest on the same ship nearly 35 years before.

“My team ran the ship,” Jeff said about his role as a boatswain mate. “We took care of general maintenance, we steered the ship and helped with refueling. For a kid right out of high school, it was a lot of responsibility.”

It was those obligations, Jeff said, that make him successful in his current career as a registered nurse at UMHS. “On the ship, one small thing can put the ship on the wrong course. Similarly, with a patient, one small thing can put their health care on the wrong course.”

Nate agreed that the values he learned in the military help him excel in health care. He spent nearly nine years in the Army Reserve until leaving the military in 2008 and was twice deployed to various African countries to work on improving the living conditions in underprivileged communities.

“Each time I was deployed to Africa, I came back much more mature than when I left,” Nate said. “I faced things I never would have faced in the U.S., and I had to do it by staying calm and working through problems.

“We do the same thing here. The ICU can be a very stressful environment, but all of us calmly work together to get the job done and give our patients incredible care.”

Family ties

So how did these two veterans with very different backgrounds — Jeff grew up in Texas, Nate in Tecumseh, Michigan — end up at UMHS? The short answer is family.

Nate joined UMHS in 2009, becoming the fourth member of his family to work here as a nurse.

Nate’s stepfather is a part of the survival flight team, his mother works in the emergency room and his sister works in the medical ICU. “Medicine is what my family knows,” Nate said. “And I still have an itch for public service. This job helps me serve people and make them stronger.”

Jeff’s mother, meanwhile, was also nurse, meaning he was raised around health care and always had an interest in the field. And while he originally planned to enter pharmaceutical sales, the first civilian job he could find was as a nurse. He fell in love with the career. “It’s amazing watching our patients get better. We get them through their toughest times.”

Jeff moved to Michigan with his family while in the military and worked in various health care organizations before joining UMHS nearly three years ago.

Now, Jeff and Nate bring the military values of camaraderie and discipline to their team in the ICU. “From one branch of military service to another, they always preach teamwork,” Jeff said. “Nate and I — along with our colleagues — carry that out every day as we fight for our patients.”

This week, the university is honoring military service members with a number of events as part of Veterans Week 2016. Click here for a full schedule and event details.