Col. Ida McDonald served in the United States Air Force for 30 years before retiring in December 2017. She continues to serve others through her passion for mentoring and volunteer work.
Before she joined the Air Force, MacDonald worked as a nurse at a large hospital in South Carolina, her home state. A friend of hers joined the Army Nurse Corps, but she decided to join the Air Force after interviewing with an Air Force nurse recruiter.
After joining, her first role was in a pediatric unit on Travis Air Force Base in California. She worked her way up to various leadership positions in the Air Force including chief nurse executive and deputy group commander.
From Travis, she served in various roles all across the country and world, going to Andrews AFB in Maryland, Landstuhl Medical Center Army, Germany, Holloman AFB in New Mexico, Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio, Sheppard AFB in Texas, Barksdale AFB in Louisiana, Laughlin AFB in Texas, Lackland AFB, Texas, and finishing at Luke AFB.
McDonald was also deployed to Haiti in Operation Uphold Democracy. Part of her job was serving as medical support to the RED HORSE squadron while they were building schools.
While in the service, McDonald also learned about and contributed to other career fields within the Air Force.
She served as an instructor in Nursing Services Management, a course where she was able to teach and shape new leaders.
“I’m really big into mentoring, so that course was right up my alley,” McDonald said. “That was one of the outstanding things – I feel like I impacted some lives that way, because many of those nurses are still in.”
McDonald said one of the biggest ways she helped contribute to the mission of the Air Force as a healthcare integrator was simply by keeping its members, and especially its members’ families, healthy.
“We have the flight medicine guys who see the pilots, but the whole population matters,” McDonald said. “When somebody is out there flying, they don’t want to be thinking about their unhealthy child or spouse having issues.”
As a healthcare integrator, McDonald served the base’s population extensively, working in pediatrics, teaching birthing classes, making home visits, working on a surgical unit, and educating the overall population on health practices and healthcare.
McDonald also served an important role as the first program manager in the Air Force Medical Operations Agency. She was responsible for the proper resourcing of personnel to various military training facilities, as well as making sure there was policy compliance at many of these MTFs.
McDonald also worked with the health professions recruiter and interviewed nurses wanting to come into the military. She used this as an opportunity to help many of these nurses and made sure to be honest with them.
McDonald said her time in the Air Force confirmed her love of mentoring and that the lessons she learned while serving have carried over to her life in retirement.
“It has really shaped me as a person, and it really enhanced my mentorship skills …” McDonald said. “It’s solidified my role as a mentoring force.”
Luke AFB is one of four sites in the Air Force’s Nurse Transition Program where they train nurses with less than one year of experience. It is also one of only two sites with an emergency trauma nursing program.
As chief nurse, part of her job was to oversee the course and make sure that the new nurses were getting the experience and training they needed.
Nowadays, McDonald continues her service on base and off by volunteering. She volunteers at the VA legal office, on-base at the retiree office every Wednesday, and at Fresh Start Womens’ Foundation.
“I like to mentor,” McDonald said. “It’s for women that are trying to get back into the work world, and I stay busy that way.”