Florida's Nurse of the Year chosen from MacDill's 6th MDG
by Staff Sgt. Randy Redman
Capt. Cherron R. Galluzzo, multiservice unit nurse manager with the 6th Medical Group, was selected as Florida Nurse of the Year by "Nursing Spectrum," a national medical magazine. From handling austere conditions in the United Arab Emirates to mentoring younger nurses, her experiences since joining the Air Force in 1993 have brought her worlds away from her last semester of nursing school at the University of Akron in Ohio.
She said after talking to a recruiter, meeting Air Force nurses on the job and experiencing the camaraderie among the other potential nurse recruits, she was hooked.
"Imagine being a cash-strapped college student from Ohio and having the opportunity to loll on a beach, stay in officers' quarters and meet fighter pilots," Captain Galluzzo said with a laugh. "How could I refuse?"
One of the highlights of her career occurred when she deployed to the UAE. She arrived March 11, 2003, a week prior to the beginning of the ground offensive for Operation Iraqi Freedom. She and her team arrived in the desert before tent housing was set up, security put in place or communications made operational.
"Our clinic consisted of a chair, a stretcher and a table," said Captain Galluzzo, adding "austere" is putting it mildly. "We had to ramp up quickly as our patient population grew from 200 to 1,000 in just 10 days."
As acting chief nurse, she established a clinic from the ground up. During Captain Galluzzo's tour of duty, she oversaw 1,400 clinic visits, 950 immunizations, and 25 medical evacuations. Waves of troops kept arriving for smallpox and anthrax vaccinations before heading off to combat.
However, her problems didn't end with dealing with patients in the clinic. Due to the high number of troops arriving daily, infection control in the makeshift camps was a huge public health concern.
"When 200 women use seven showers and 800 men use 40 showers every day," said Captain Galluzzo, "fungus can be a real problem. Everyone had to be educated to disinfect the showers after use."
Troops also had to be reminded to properly dispose of spore-infected bandages used to cover anthrax inoculation sites. She received a medal of commendation for her tour and returned to her nurse manager position here, where her duties include developing a Homeland Defense initiative to increase the 6th Medical Group's readiness to respond to a potential weapons-of-mass-destruction event. With an already full plate, Captain Gallyuzzo still manages to find time to mentor younger nurses. Lt. Col. Patti Parker, 6th Medical Operations Squadron deputy commander, says Captain Galluzzo is not a manager who sits behind her desk.
"She is the consummate leader, always out on the floor teaching and mentoring her nurses," said Colonel Parker. "She recognized the need for young nurses to have experience in a high-volume, high-census environment and developed a unique program to rotate her 'baby nurses' through our busier ambulatory same-day surgery unit and postanesthesia care unit." Captain Galluzzo said she feels it is her duty to pass along her knowledge and depth of experience to younger nurses advancing their careers.
"In the military, we're always preparing to pass the baton to nurses who will take our place when we leave," she said. "I'm the product of awesome mentors."
This month, she transfers to her new duty station in the Primary Care Optimization Clinic at Nellis Air Force Base in Nevada. She's excited about working in an outpatient setting, which fills a gap in her nursing experience.
"The military allows you to try on many shoes during your career," she said. "In order to be an asset to the Air Force Nurse Corps, I really need this experience in an area that is growing rapidly in today's military healthcare."
After her desert experience, Captain Galluzzo has an infectiously positive attitude about her latest assignment. "I won't have to battle sand," she said. "And I can eat something besides chicken and spaghetti, so it'll be great."