When Melissa Swierczek reports for duty, it could be as a mother of five, wife to Thomas, registered nurse at Lee’s Summit Medical Center, or third-generation military, serving in the United States Air Force Reserve.
But whichever job Swierczek is performing, you can bet she is being the absolute best she can be. That’s just the way she rolls.
Swierczek, a Kansas City, Mo., resident since March 2006, isn’t from anywhere in particular; rather, she’s from everywhere. Her father, James Tennant, retired from a distinguished Air Force career in 1990 at Offutt Air Force Base in Omaha, Neb. Typical of any career officer, he kept his family moving from base-to-base every couple of years. Swierczek says the lifestyle may appear transitory to some, but was a priceless experience that gave her an opportunity to develop close bonds with people being raised with the same goal: unity and integrity of service.
“Growing up in the military, everyone takes care of everyone else, regardless if you’re the new family or kid on the base,” says Swierczek. “I grew up with that philosophy, and it has served me well as an adult, whether I’m working at the hospital or as a reservist.”
Nancy Melcher, BSN, MBA, chief nursing officer at Lee’s Summit Medical Center, says Swierczek’s dual roles focus on patient-focused care. “Melissa provides excellent nursing care to her patients,” says Melcher. “It is wonderful that she can share her talents in providing that care not only here at Lee’s Summit Medical Center, but in her military role as well.”
Swierczek decided to enter the Air Force Reserve a little more than a year ago, saying it was time to give back to her country. It was a poignant moment for daughter and father: Tennant, a veteran of the Korean War, commissioned her.
“I always knew that someday I would be in the military, I just didn’t know in what capacity and at what point in my life,” says Swierczek, whose grandfather was also a veteran, a U.S. Marine Corp corporal who lost an arm during World War II.
During the past year Swierczek has attended trauma training in Scottsdale, Ariz., and recently returned from Washington, D.C. She serves once a month in the reserves as a lieutenant, acting as a Veterans Administration liaison and establishes training opportunities for medics. In addition, she is in charge of safety, infection control and immunizations in her squadron, all of which enhance her role as a medical surgical telemetry nurse at Lee’s Summit Medical Center.
“What I do in the Air Force complements my job at Lee’s Summit Medical Center,” says Swierczek, who enjoys her work with patients. “It’s all about positive outcomes.”
Debbie Anglemyer, RN, BSN, MSM, associate chief nursing officer and interim director of quality at Lee’s Summit Medical Center, says the skill and compassion Swierczek demonstrates for her patients translates to her military role. “She uses those same skills to provide care to our enlisted countrymen, teach in the reserves and serve her country,” says Anglemyer.
The Swierczeks’ five children range in age from 6-year-old identical twin girls to a 7-year-old daughter, and 9- and 10-year-old sons. One of the obvious challenges of Swierczek’s multiple jobs is organizing the household, a task in which Thomas, an analyst at the Federal Reserve, is an equal partner. The couple has a system in place, which includes color-coding backpacks and charting out activities and carpooling.
“And luckily, we’re surrounded by people who support us,” says Swierczek.
Swierczek knows that there is a strategic plan in place for her inevitable deployment for active duty, something she looks forward to.
“I’m ready in a second,” she says.
As a mother, Swierczek says her heart breaks knowing that she will miss some important moment in her children’s lives, but the officer in her has a plan. And the pride that her kids have for their mother’s military service makes Swierczek choke up for a moment.
“Sometimes they’ll introduce me as a solider before they say ‘mommy’ or ‘nurse,’” says Swierczek. “But they count the hours and minutes down to when I come home from a reservist weekend or another trip.”
And no doubt, this mom, wife, registered nurse, and U.S. Air Force Reserve lieutenant counts down those precious minutes, too.