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Lending a Listening Ear on the Nightshift During Vietnam

May 20, 2013

“The military helped me develop discipline, the joy of caring for wounded soldiers, and the importance of decorum,” said Dr. Vicki Lachman, a clinical professor in the College of Nursing and Health Professions. Dr. Lachman served as a second and then as a first lieutenant in the Army Nurse Corps between 1968 and 1971.

She was initially stationed at Valley Forge, Pennsylvania, one of the east coast return centers for soldiers wounded in the Vietnam War. Valley Forge was a 1,000-bed hospital at the time and Dr. Lachman and the other Army nurses used golf carts to complete their rounds. Because she was low in the military officer hierarchy and a woman, Dr. Lachman spent a lot of time working the night shift. During those twilight hours, she learned the importance of listening to her patients.

“I learned about the war, as the patients would wake up with nightmares, and I would listen to their stories. I learned to never underestimate the value of your listening presence to a patient in psychological pain,” she said. “This lesson served me well as I pursued my Master’s degree in psychiatric nursing on the G.I. Bill later in my career.”

Dr. Lachman was also struck by the knowledge and the skill of the medical corpsmen who essentially managed the Valley Forge hospital.

She was next stationed in Fort Sill, Oklahoma at an artillery base where she served as a critical care nurse. “The most important knowledge I took from that experience echoed the listening at Valley Forge,” she said. “The multiple examples I have all center around my listening to the patients that saved lives.”

Dr. Lachman currently serves as the Adjutant for Post 331 in Stone Harbor, New Jersey and enjoys the continued camaraderie of veterans who have served our country.