Not everyone gets to pick their career field when they join the Air Force. As a result, those with a true passion for the job they perform are rare. The Air Force recognizes these individuals and gives them a chance to excel through commissioning programs.
One such opportunity is the Nursing Enlisted Commissioning Program. One of D-M’s own, Tech. Sgt. Pamela Jirsa, 355th Medical Operations Squadron noncommissioned officer in charge of the orthopedic clinic, was accepted into the NECP for the year of 2013.
Her interest in nursing began at home.
“When I was 14, my father was diagnosed with colon cancer,” Jirsa said. “Due to lack of insurance the hospital had to send him home before he was completely healed, and my mom had to take over his care. I would watch her pack and dress his surgical wounds, and I thought ‘How amazing is it that you can get paid for essentially saving someone’s life?’ and that’s when I knew I wanted to be a nurse.”
Jirsa began her military career as a surgical technician at Wright-Patterson AFB, OH in 1999.
“When I joined the Air Force, I knew I wanted something in the medical field,” Jirsa said. “I love interacting with patients. I love seeing how your touch, words and kindness can make a big difference in their lives.”
In 2004, Jirsa cross trained into the communications career field and stayed for seven years. But nursing is where she felt she was needed, so in 2010 she went back to her medical roots and joined the orthopedic field.
“For me it’s not just being a nurse, but being a nurse in the Air Force that’s important,” Jirsa said.
“Taking care of our people and our wounded warriors is an essential requirement that needs to be met.”
She is now getting her chance. Jirsa and 47 other Airmen were selected from a pool of almost 200 applicants.
“I am just so grateful,” Jirsa said. “Knowing all the hard work that everyone put into getting the package together and applying to schools makes me feel so honored to be a selectee. I’m feeling blessed right now with this opportunity.”
All NECP selectees will be released from regular duty for 24-months. During this time, they are required to obtain a Bachelor of Science degree in nursing, pass the National Council Licensure Examination and complete Commissioned Officer Training.
“The hardest part for me, I think, will be time management,” Jirsa said. “I’m going to have to juggle a husband and two kids with being a full-time student. I do, however, have an amazing husband. He is seriously the world’s most supportive man, so I think that will help quite a bit.”
Jirsa offers this advice to future NECP applicants.
“Start early,” she said. “Getting your package together takes a long time. Don’t give up. This is actually my second time applying. Last year, I couldn’t even apply because I didn’t get accepted into the one university that I applied to. So that’s another piece of advice: don’t put all your eggs in one basket when it comes to the university. Also, know exactly why you want to be a nurse. Having that clear motivation is important not only during the application process, but in the job itself.”
Squeezing all of her school, certifications and training into 24 months will be a challenge, but one Jirsa is more than ready to take on.
“I’m most excited about the opportunity to finally be a nurse,” she said. “I’ve wanted to do this since I was 14, and I’m 31 now. So basically half my life ago I decided I wanted to do this, but I didn’t have the resources to go to college and I joined the Air Force right out of high school. I guess I did things a little backwards. But now, as a technical sergeant, with a husband and two kids, I’m finally getting to be what I always wanted to be when I grew up.”