Rear Adm. Elizabeth S. Niemyer
Director, Navy Nurse Corps
I’m a native of Annapolis, Md. My father is a retired Marine Corps officer and my grandfather was a [U.S. Naval] Academy graduate. I wanted to be
a nurse since I was in high school and a Navy nurse, specifically, because they
took care of Marines. I chose nursing because I wanted to be in a helping profession. I entered the University of Maryland when I was 16. I called the
recruiter to see if I could get an ROTC [Reserve Officers Training Corps]
scholarship, but since I was only 16, they told me to call back when I was 18.
I graduated with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing and pursued a civilian
nursing career. But the idea of being a Navy nurse never left my mind, so
after three years as a civilian nurse, I called the recruiter again.
Like many people, I’ve never once regretted my decision to join the Navy.
I started my career as a medical surgical nurse, but headed down more of a
business path in Navy medicine. With the support of the Navy, I earned master’s degrees in Human Resource Management and Education Administration
and I completed the Naval War College (nonresident program).
I’ve served as the director of the two largest Tricare regions in the world
[Tricare Region Eurasia, Africa, and Tricare Region West]. Although running the business side of Navy medicine and the military health system has
been my area of expertise, being the director of the Nurse Corps has been
a true highlight in my career. It has been an honor to represent the entire
Navy nursing team, active, Reserve and civilian. Returning to my roots in
nursing has been like coming home.
As commander of the naval hospital in Rota, Spain, I experienced the
challenges and rewards of command. I had a real opportunity to be a
leader, to exercise my profession, and work with fabulous people to collectively make a positive difference. In that assignment, I had a-once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to command a medical exercise conducted annually
in various countries in Africa. We accomplished three objectives: taught
basic life support and advanced life support to the Moroccan military medical staff, delivered health care to more than 7,000 Moroccans in seven
days in seven different villages, and lastly, taught principles of disaster
relief and then conducted an international disaster relief exercise.
There are many facets of being a nurse that expand beyond the narrow picture of a bedside nurse: advance practice nursing, such as nurse practitioner
or nurse anesthetist, education, manpower specialist, informatics, clinic management, research and health care administration. One of my strategic priorities as director has been building our nursing research portfolio, increasing the
number of nurses with PhDs and Doctorates of Nursing Practice. Research and
evidence based practice are important to advancing the practice of nursing.
Because we have been at war for 11 years, we have developed emergency, trauma and critical care skill sets to support the continuum of care
and meet operational requirements. This trauma focused skill set will be a
challenge for us to maintain because we don’t have the same level of injury
or illness inside our military treatment facilities. We are partnering with
civilian institutions to keep that skill set current, because we never want
to have to rebuild that in the same manner again. ■
“One of my strategic priorities as director has
been building our nursing research portfolio,
increasing the number
of nurses with PhDs
and Doctorates of
Research and evidence-based practice are
important to advancing
the practice of nursing.”