Service Oriented


“I’m from Colorado Springs. Actually, I’m kind of from everywhere. My father is retired Navy so we moved around quite a bit. I was born in the Philippines (U.S. Naval Base Subic Bay) right at the end of the Vietnam War. Then we lived in San Francisco (Naval Station Treasure Island), Vallejo, Calif. (Mare Island Naval Shipyard) and Zion, Ill. (Great Lakes Naval Station) before my dad became a recruiter in Colorado.

I never wanted to join the service myself. I wanted to go to college but the problem was how to pay for it. The main reason I joined the Navy — other than to serve my country, don’t get me wrong — was for the educational opportunities. So there I was, 17 years old, heading to boot camp right here in San Diego.

I started out as a hospital corpsman and then became a medical technologist for a short time. I worked in a cell bank counting red blood cells, white blood cells and sperm. I knew that I liked the medical field but I quickly realized there had to be something better. Turns out, it was anesthesia.

I was accepted into an ROTC unit at the University of Colorado (earning my bachelor’s in nursing) in 1992 and then served as a general practitioner nurse before getting my master’s in anesthesia at Georgetown University and, now, my PhD from USD — both through the Navy’s “Duty Under Instruction” scholarship program.

USD has been awesome. It really has. First and foremost, it was the faculty — their passion and scientific background — that brought me here. And USD’s flexibility in allowing me to do my research at Naval Hospital Camp Pendleton was huge. I can’t even imagine a better scenario for me.

I was recently hired as the newest faculty member in the graduate nursing program at the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md. I’m very excited. I get to do anesthesia, I get to teach my trade and I get to do research. It’s the ultimate combination for me.

Nothing really drew me to anesthesia other than it’s fun. It’s this strange combination of 98 percent pure boredom and two percent terror because either things are just perfect or somebody is dying. There’s no in-between. I’m also a nerd — I love the chemistry and biology of it —so for me it’s that perfect marriage between the art and science of nursing.

Something I noticed in my practice — both in Navy hospitals and combat zones — was the number of young, active-duty service members who would wake up from anesthesia confused, combative, agitated and even belligerent. It’s called emergence delirium.

The phenomenon is fairly common in children but very rare in the normal adult population. However, my own experience suggested young combat veterans exhibit this condition at a significantly higher rate. We’ve been aware of it for a long time but nobody has really studied it in this specific population. So that became the focus of my dissertation.

My research sample showed an incidence rate of 20 percent, one in five, far above the 5 percent rate of the normal adult population. Up to this point, these episodes are essentially treated as isolated incidents. We give the patients medication to calm them down and then move on. But if an individual has multiple surgeries, those instances just stack on top of each other and that could have long-term consequences for brain function.

That’s where this research becomes important. In my opinion, these are some of the greatest Americans and we’re not doing them justice if we don’t try to solve this issue.

I wrote an article published in the Journal of PeriAnesthesia Nursing this last December titled ‘Risk Factors for Emergence Delirium in U.S. Military Members,’ and, to my knowledge, it was the first time this phenomenon has ever been written about regarding a military population.

It’s a start. This is all about doing whatever we can to bring that incident rate down and decrease the chance these service members have cognitive problems later in life. It’s an amazing group of people who’ve sacrificed so much and they deserve to have those questions answered. So this is my service to them.”

— Lt. Cmdr. Jason McGuire ’11, PhD, 

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