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The Soldier Nurse

The Soldier Nurse

David Blumenkrantz | Scrubs Magazine

The government’s undying commitment to providing health care for patriots who make the ultimate sacrifice for their country comes with some drawbacks. The patient population at SACC is so big that sometimes patients are told to come back for follow-up appointments after three months. Bernardino cites medical refill lapses as an ongoing concern of his. “I work with doctors, reminding them to review prescriptions to ensure that their medications last until their next visit.”

Yet Bernardino is quick to downplay public perceptions of the VA as an inefficient bureaucracy. He also works weekends at a USC extension hospital in Orange County, and is well suited to compare civilian health care with government health care. His old soldier’s loyalty comes across as genuine as he defends the VA, insisting that while there will always be complaints, “patients here are treated like family. I think the care the patients are receiving in the VA is better than in civilian life, because there they only treat ailments. Here they treat the whole person.”

He says that some patients come in for one thing and “we find other problems, like financial or transportation issues.” The social workers deal with outside issues, which include homelessness and patients treated by caregivers at home. Bernardino says the VA arranges transportation for patients coming from as far away as Bakersfield, while volunteers help disabled veterans get around on the hospital grounds. Furthermore, Bernardino asserts that when it comes to using cutting-edge technology, the VA is up to date, making it “a leader in the field of health care.”

On a personal level, Bernardino cites exercise as the single most important factor in relieving stress and keeping him fit for duty. An athletic 52, he starts every day with a military regimen of sit-ups and push-ups, and runs “a minimum of two miles” before showering at home and heading to work. He boasts that he still runs miles of eight minutes or less, and can still pass the Army physical with a score of 100 percent.

“That’s part of my heritage from the service,” he says, flashing a rare smile. “Exercise.” He does his best to share his enthusiasm for working out with the veterans he meets every day at SACC. “That’s what I tell the patients: ‘You learned all these skills in the military. Use your body.’ Some listen, some don’t.”

Married for 30 years, Bernardino has two children, both adults now. He’s proud to announce that his son is entering the National Guard. Since Bernardino began his career in nursing, he has added both an MSN and an FNP to his resume. He expresses optimism that the latter, which he just completed last year, will give him “the opportunity to work with veterans in a more direct way.”

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