Capt. Paige Puryear ‘16 was recently recognized during the Armed Forces CRNA (Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetists) Appreciation Month.
She earned that recognition from the U.S. Army Reserves because of her hard work and dedication during the 2020 COVID-19 outbreak and then again during her 2021 Kuwait deployment.
As the child of a nurse practitioner, Puryear decided working in the health care field was a natural choice. She combined that decision with her desire to join the military.
When the timing was right, she was able to customize a career that was the perfect fit for her.
Designing a career
Puryear started with a biology degree at Drury University.
Some encouraging advice from her mom led to her next step in education — a Bachelor of Science in Nursing at Cox College. She knew that nursing would provide her with a wide variety of career field options and wasn’t disappointed.
She then found Newman University and its Master of Nurse Anesthesia program while residing in Oklahoma City as a travel nurse. Even though Newman didn’t run its program in Oklahoma City, it did partner with practices and hospitals for their clinical requirements.
“I applied to three different schools and got into all of them, but Newman was the best fit,” explained Puryear. “The flexibility and ability to not be in one city to do everything meant I got to do rural rotations in other parts of the state.”
Puryear lived in Wichita with several of her classmates in the program and commuted home when needed. She said the independence that the program provided was a perfect setup for what she would eventually experience while in the military.
Through Newman, she learned how to work independently from others and to think critically in many different settings.
“We were taught how to provide solo care from the moment we graduated and step into our daily jobs and routines. Newman did an awesome job with that.”
Puryear signed an eight-year commitment with the Army Reserves in 2016 toward the end of her Newman education. She said the timing was finally right and because of Newman, she was equipped with many of the skills she would need to hit the ground running in her military career.
“During my time in the anesthesia program at Newman, we had recruiters come and talk to us,” said Puryear. “The military helped with scholarship and loan assistance and I was accepted for a specialized training assistance program through the Army.”
She’s enjoyed her military service and is thankful for the unique opportunities she’s been given.
When the COVID-19 pandemic developed in 2020, hospitals and clinics everywhere were hit hard. Staff shortages, unknown factors and a massive inflow of patients were causing a worldwide dilemma.
Puryear was deployed with her unit to New Jersey. While there, she and her fellow servicemen and women aided in the efforts underway.
“There was a huge shortage of ICU (intensive care unit) doctors to manage patients who needed to be intubated, which was a large portion of my job,” she explained. “So when the military realized the need for trained providers, they started using us as more of an ICU intensive position, doing ventilator and airway management.”
Puryear saw many lower-income and homeless patients who had no other access to care. Using convention centers, she and her team were able to provide that care to patients who didn’t need an ICU.
Just one year later, in 2021, she was deployed to Kuwait. Again, she pulled from her skills of working independently to provide care to soldiers and aid in the care of refugees during the Afghanistan evacuation.
She said each deployment experience has changed her a little, but with the training she received, she felt prepared and ready.
“With any trauma, you remember that others are counting on you and you can make an impact. We just do the best we can in those situations and rely on the knowledge we have gained while continuing to learn from each experience.”
Puryear recently finished a contract overseas and is home for a time, but then will be going back to work in Oklahoma City.
She works one weekend a month as a reservist when she’s not deployed and occasionally will have to leave for a couple of weeks for special training.
When she’s not doing that, Puryear is an independent contractor for a local anesthesia group. The job’s flexibility is perfect for her military lifestyle while working in a variety of cases and anesthetics.
She plans on continuing to improve and practice her skills to be the best she can be at her job. As for the future, she is certain she would like to broaden her horizons.
“I definitely want to travel more … work some more in other countries and experience other cultures.”
Earn a Master of Nurse Anesthesia degree
The program offers both didactic and clinical education to enable the graduate student to acquire the knowledge, skills, and competence necessary to assume an advanced practice role.