Former Navy Nurse Raises Awareness About the Lingering Effects of Agent Orange

Susan Schnall and a group of children at Tu Du Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City, in 2008. Susan Schnall and a group of children at Tu Du Hospital, Ho Chi Minh City, in 2008.

On August 10, 1961, the United States military first sprayed Agent Orange, a defoliant containing a particularly toxic dioxin compound, in Vietnam. Fifty-five years later, the effects of this and other chemicals linger on. And 48 years after former naval nurse Susan Schnall was court-martialed for protesting the Vietnam War, she visited Vietnam for the first time and witnessed these effects firsthand.

“In all my years in health care, I have never seen children with such severe birth defects,” Schnall said during an interview with AJN. After her court-martial, Schnall went on to have a successful 30-year career in hospital administration. After retiring and visiting Vietnam, she decided she needed to do something about what she witnessed there.

Schnall joined a group called the Vietnam Agent Orange Relief and Responsibility Campaign, made up of American Vietnam Veterans, Vietnamese Americans, social activists, and community leaders. The group aims to educate the public on the repercussions of the chemical warfare used in Southeast Asia and tries to get the U.S. government to compensate the more than 3 million Vietnamese people still suffering from the chemicals’ effects. […]

As the VA Regroups and Recruits, The Words of Nurses Who Served

By Amanda Anderson, a critical care nurse and graduate student in New York City who is currently doing a graduate placement at AJN two days a week. The AJN articles linked to in this post will be free until the end of December.

Vietnam Women's Memorial, courtesy of Kay Schwebke Vietnam Women’s Memorial, courtesy of Kay Schwebke

A scandal earlier this year about suppressed data related to long wait times for appointments tainted the credibility of the Department of Veterans Affairs. On this Veterans Day week, the new secretary of Veterans Affairs has been using incentives and promises of culture change to promote new hiring initiatives for physicians and nurses. The focus as always should be on the removal of the barriers many veterans face in obtaining timely, high quality care. Naturally, a number of these veterans are nurses themselves.

To commemorate those who have bravely cared for our country, and who deserve the best of care in return, we’ve compiled a few quotations from nurse veterans who’ve written for or been quoted in AJN about their experiences in successive conflicts through the decades. Thank you for all your service, and for what you carry daily—as nurses, veterans, and patients.

World War II
“I remember walking through cities leveled by bombs, looking at the hollow eyes and haunted faces of a devastated civilian population. Since September 11, I see those same hollow eyes and haunted faces on the nightly news.”
—Mary O’Neill […]

November 14th, 2014|career, Nursing, nursing perspective|0 Comments

Redeemed by M*A*S*H

Greg Horton is a widely published freelance writer and an adjunct professor at Oklahoma City Community College. With a new generation of veterans struggling to deal with emotional and physical wounds from their experiences in Iraq and Afghanistan, and to find meaningful work in a challenging economy, this story of a father’s 30-year nursing career after his return from the Vietnam War is particularly relevant today.

MASH-dioramaMy father started us on M*A*S*H soon after his return from Korea in 1973. The Vietnam War was nearing its end, although we did not know it at the time. A combat medic during his tour of duty in Vietnam early in the war, on this most recent tour my father had been stationed in Korea for a year at a hospital that received the grievously injured. “Spaghetti and meatball surgery,” he called it.

Our family had moved to Maud, Oklahoma, in 1972 to be near my mother’s family while my dad was in Korea. The endless countryside around our small town, combined with the local dump, gave us more than enough adventures to keep our minds off the war in a country of which we knew little.

M*A*S*H, the legendary television show featuring Alan Alda as the sarcastic antihero, started the year my father left for Korea. We were not a television-watching family, as such. My mother’s Pentecostal background instilled a deep-rooted distrust for the medium, unless Oral Roberts or Rex Humbard was preaching.

However, on my […]

June 3rd, 2013|career|2 Comments

AJN’s Growing Collection of Podcasts

Look for the AJN podcast icon Look for the AJN podcast icon

A note from AJN’s editor-in-chief, Maureen Shawn Kennedy: Why not head over to our Web site and check out AJN’s podcasts and video collections? Just put your mouse over the MEDIA tab at the top and choose podcasts or one of the video series in the drop-down menu.

We’ve got a variety of podcasts to choose from:

  • monthly highlights, in which editors discuss the articles in each issue
  • “Behind the Article” podcasts are interviews with authors to discuss their work or provide additional context about the article
  • and in “Conversations,” listen to, well, conversations with nurses and other notable and interesting people (there’s even one with former president Jimmy Carter!)

We also have special collections, one of which contains music from Liyana, a group of disabled African singers who graced the cover of the August 2009 issue. (See “On the Cover” from that issue to read about them.)

The other collection contains poems written by nurses who served in the Vietnam War. They were collected by Kay Schwebke, author of “The Vietnam Nurses Memorial: Better Late Than Never” in the May 2009 issue. The short poems are heartbreaking and very much worth hearing.

One final option, if you prefer to save podcasts for listening to at a more convenient time: you can subscribe to AJN‘s podcasts in the iTunes store. Just search for […]

February 19th, 2013|nursing perspective|0 Comments