By Steve Lewis
AUBURN, AL – Early in his military career, David R. Crumbley MSN, CWCN, assistant clinical professor at the Auburn University School of Nursing, became inspired to help people through medicine.
“I enjoyed making their lives better and sharing the things that go on in their lives,” Crumbly recalls.
Now retired from the Navy after 23 years of service, he recently received the Navy’s Meritorious Service Medal for “exceptional professionalism, personal initiative and loyal devotion to duty.”
Immediately prior to his retirement from the Navy, from May 2011 to July 2012, Cmdr. Crumbley served as deputy surgeon general liaison to the Federal Recovery Care Program in the Veterans Administration Central Office
In that position, Crumbley was involved in care coordination of the severely wounded, ill and injured. These patients, he says, were cared for “not just during active duty but as they made the transition between active duty and VA facilities and to their homes.” In fact, he says, the Federal Recovery Care Program can follow the patients for the rest of their lives.
The Navy was the second military branch in which Crumbley served. He enlisted in the Army after high school, where he learned to be a medic. He notes that the mentoring by many nurses motivated him to continue his education.
After attending college and earning his nursing degree, he returned to the military, joining the Navy, which funded his master’s degree. He spent 20 years as a Navy Nurse Corps Officer before retiring.
Affinity for Wound Care
Early on in his career, Crumbley says, he became interested in advanced wound care. “I had an affinity for it – it was one of those things that kind of clicked, and I got good at it,” he recounts. “My goal was to advance the wound care wherever I was at.”
Accordingly, he started one of the first nurse-managed clinics at Navy installations in Charleston, SC, and continued to do so in different venues, including Pensacola, FL. This ultimately led him to Bethesda, MD, where he served on a surgical floor where wounded coming back from Afghanistan were treated.
“Through his direct involvement in 900 cases, he personally ensured quality health care for 450 seriously injured veterans to ensure that the care needs were not lost in the transition process,” according to the Navy award citation.
Here, he developed strong relationships with the department head and Army surgical researchers. “They said they’d like me to come on board and coordinate their program, and I said ‘Sure,’” Crumbley notes. “We initiated a complex wound and limb salvage program both at Bethesda and Walter Reed [National Military Medical Center].”
“One of the things I’m most proud of,” he continues, was that, through the program, he was able to have an impact on wound care practices and transporting the wounded.
“We came up with an intervention for the guys that get these high above the knee amputations and invasive fungal infections; we came up with a solution for that,” says Crumbly. Basically this involved the application of negative pressure wound therapy earlier in the process, to combat the sometimes life-threatening infections.
. “Most often they’d get [the therapy] when they got back to the states; we said if we started early it could be more effective, reducing tissue edema and enhancing profusion so the patient does not lose so much tissue,” he explains.
Crumbley also helped to develop and implement a tool to measure the workload intensity involved in care of the wounded, which, in turn, helped determine the appropriate caseload for care coordinators, as recommended by the 2010 Government Accountability Office report.
Caring for the wounded, Crumbley adds, was clearly the most rewarding facet of his career as a nurse and nurse corps officer. “It was the care, and having the opportunity to make a difference in these lives,” he says. “Here were these young guys, who many times were very humble but were unbelievably committed to their comrades and to the mission.”
Crumbley’s liaison position entailed coordinating dialogue and interface between VA and DoD resources, and he said his background work with the wounded was essential to his success.
. “A of lot times VA functions in their area and the military in theirs; we try to get that communication going between them,” he explains. As he started working in the program, he adds, he often found himself dealing with patients he had previously cared for in hospitals – those two and three years down the road from injury.
As for his current position training new nurses, it is once again a logical extension of his previous work.
“I enjoyed working with the junior nurses and training them up at Bethesda,” he says. “It was very exciting and rewarding, and I knew I wanted to continue on in that role.”