MOAA’s Virtual Nurses Chapter Continues to Grow and Make a Difference

MOAA’s Virtual Nurses Chapter Continues to Grow and Make a Difference
An operating room nurse prepares a patient aboard the hospital ship USNS Comfort (T-AH 20) in 2020, part of COVID-19 pandemic response efforts. (Photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Sara Eshleman/Navy)

By Contributing Editor Blair Drake


Since MOAA’s Uniformed Services Nurse Advocates Virtual Chapter (MUSNAVC) was founded in 2016, the chapter has continued to grow, now boasting 425 members from across the U.S.


That increase in membership has helped the chapter with its mission to advocate on health care issues that affect the uniformed services community.


“Like in national MOAA, membership growth is important because it gives you more advocates and makes sure your voice is as big as possible,” said Col. Jeri Graham, USA (Ret), chapter president and national MOAA board member.


Active duty, reserve, and retired nurses from the Army, Air Force, Navy, and U.S. Public Health Service Commissioned Corps comprise the MUSNAVC. Members are located in all 50 states as well as the District of Columbia and Puerto Rico and cover 180 congressional districts. They also come from a variety of military and professional backgrounds.


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“There is such talent among our members,” Graham said in an interview during National Nurses Week, “… and a lot of really great experience and knowledge. When you add up the number of years of experience of all MUSNAVC members, it’s over 6,000 years of experience. That’s a really impactful number to say to elected officials.”


MUSNAVC members recently participated in national MOAA’s annual Advocacy in Action event, joining in the effort to contact U.S. legislators about several key issues affecting the military and veterans’ community. They also have remained focused on staying up-to-date on not only military health care but also health care across the nation.


“The military has been called to help out the nation over the past few years during the pandemic,” Graham said. “We play a major part in what is happening in health care across the nation. … It’s a lot of intertwining of efforts, so that’s why we need to keep on top of the issues affecting health care.”


Communication Success

To help spread awareness about these and other issues, effective communication has been key for the MUSNAVC. Members meet virtually once a month, and those meetings are recorded so members who are unable to attend still have the opportunity to view them. The chapter also shares information through its website and e-newsletter, both of which have been recognized with five-star Col. Marvin J. Harris Communication Awards from national MOAA.


“We have really tried to ensure we have a great handle on the communication methods that are virtually related,” Graham said.


Members also reach out to one another through a buddy call system. During the pandemic, the chapter used that system to check in on members. When a national disaster strikes, the chapter uses its call system to contact members who may have been affected.


“We’re able to pull out contact information from our database for the affected area, and we get a group together and divide and reach out to our members located there,” Graham explained.


Opportunities to Give Back

Because MUSNAVC members don’t share the same geographic location, finding opportunities to get involved in local community-service efforts can be challenging. But the chapter recently connected with a program many of its members can support. Veteran’s Last Patrol, started by MOAA member Col. Claude Schmid, USA (Ret), connects veteran volunteers to veterans in hospice. Since its founding in South Carolina in 2018, Veteran’s Last Patrol has grown to more than 250 volunteers in 19 states, supporting thousands of veterans.


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Graham and her husband, Col. Ed Baisden, USA (Ret), who serves as MUSNAVC membership chair, recently completed orientation at a local hospice facility so they can volunteer with the nonprofit. “We think it’s a great way to have veterans listening to veterans and to provide support and friendship,” Graham said.


She thinks Veteran’s Last Patrol is a great opportunity for MUSNAVC members to not only continue with their passion for caring for others, but also fulfill MOAA’s motto of “never stop serving.”


“If you ask anyone who’s … had good care, they’ll always remember that,” she said. “You just never know when you’ll make a difference in someone’s life or family. Here I am now focusing on veterans in hospice. ‘Never stop serving’ is such a smart thing to say. It’s such a part of you, and it all feels right. It may change what your focus is, but that dedication stays with you. It’s a very strong philosophy to have.”


Blair Drake is a contributing editor for MOAA and lives in Souderton, Pa. She previously served on the editorial team of Military Officer magazine for nine years.


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