Nurse Officer-in-Charge at Madigan Thrives on Emergency Department Challenges

WASHINGTON — The hustle and bustle of an emergency department may not appeal to everyone, but it is where Army Maj. Katherine E. Frost, AN, clinical nurse officer-in-charge of Madigan Army Medical Center’s Department of Emergency Medicine feels at home.

“I enjoy not knowing what is coming through the door and the challenge of trying to figure out exactly what is wrong and how to best help the person,” explained Frost about her enthusiasm for emergency medicine.

Frost, who has served in her current position for nearly two years, describes her job as equivalent to a nurse manager in a civilian hospital. She makes sure the department has adequate nurse staffing, and she takes care of personnel and administrative issues. She oversees about 60 registered nurses and 12 licensed practical nurses and about 20 to 30 medics.

“We are very busy in the emergency department,” she said. “We have the main ER, and we also have what we call the ‘fast track,’” which is kind of like an acute-illness clinic, if you will. We see, on average, about 180 to 200 patients per day.”

Frost said she found her passion for emergency medicine after she was commissioned as an Army nurse in 1995 and took her first Army assignment at MAMC’s emergency department.  She then took a second assignment in Korea, where she also worked in emergency medicine.

“I was fortunate enough to work in the emergency room there and really enjoyed that and then went to the Army’s emergency nursing course down at Fort Sam Houston, which is about a three-months- long course and then just stayed with emergency nursing from then on,” she said.

Frost credits Army nursing with giving her unique experiences that she would not have had otherwise, such as her two deployments to Iraq to care for wounded servicemembers.  Her first deployment was in 2004 to Taji, Iraq, with the 547th Medical Company (AS). The second deployment was in 2007-2008 to Baghdad with the 86th Combat Support Hospital.

“Military medicine is kind of at the cutting edge,” she said. “A lot of what we did in downrange, we now implement in our practice in civilian hospitals. There is actually a lot of equipment that I had never seen or used before, that I used for the first time downrange.”

Originally from Great Britain, Frost immigrated to the United States with her family when she was 10. She attended the University of Florida after high school but didn’t feel ready to pick a major. Instead, she “wanted to get out and see the world.”

Frost said she had always felt inclined toward military service. Her uncle had served in the United Kingdom’s Royal Navy and she, too, thought she would serve in Britain’s military, but she was rejected because she had been out of the country too many years to qualify.

Instead she enlisted in the U.S. Army in 1986, serving as a medic. After her first enlistment, she wanted to further her military career, so she joined ROTC and earned a Bachelor of Science in Nursing from Arkansas State and embarked on a career as an Army nurse.

She said she has loved the many options she has had as an Army nurse.

 “I think a lot of civilian nurses graduate from school, they go to their local community hospital and they pretty much stay in the same job for 20 years. Whereas, with military nursing, there is so much diversity in what you can do and where you can work, and that is very appealing.”

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