Newly Commissioned Army Reserve Officer Supports COVID-19 Mission
Critical care nurse Michael Dolan '14 answered the urgent call for 332-1 UAMTF volunteers.
1st Lt. Michael Dolan '14, a newly commissioned United States Army Reserve critical care nurse, had undergone only two drill weekends before volunteering for an important COVID-19 mission.
That mission was 332-1 UAMTF.
"UAMTF stands for Urban Augmentation Military Task Force, and ours was part of the 332nd Medical Brigade based out of Nashville, TN. The UAMTFs were designed to provide the personnel required to run a federal medical station to help reduce the patient load of local hospitals in communities hard hit by COVID-19," explained Dolan, who graduated from SUNY Brockport with a degree in exercise science and from the University of North Florida with a degree in nursing.
Made up of medics, nurses, doctors, and nurse practitioners, the task force supplemented care to critically ill COVID-19 patients in the intensive care unit (ICU) at University Hospital in Newark, NJ, throughout the month of May.
"I knew that critical care nurses were likely going to be in demand, so I volunteered immediately. Even though I was still very new to the military, I felt confident that my experience as a critical care nurse would still be a valuable asset to the mission,” Dolan said in an interview with the Army Reserve.
This opportunity was "unusual," according to him. Typically, a direct commission officer cannot be activated for deployment until the officer completes two military training courses: the Basic Officer Leader Course and the Direct Commission Course. Despite his fresh status, Dolan's skills were in critical need.
After just a two-day orientation, Dolan was putting those skills to the test through his care for inpatients at Unity, 50 percent of whom had tested positive for COVID-19 and 100 of whom were on mechanical ventilation.
"Every ICU had been transformed into a COVID-19 unit, and there were so many ICU patients that several medical floors were converted into temporary ICUs to handle the volume of patients on ventilators," said Dolan.
The patient volume, a much higher load than the officers would normally be required to take on in a critical care setting, was what Dolan considered the most challenging aspect of the mission. Septic shock, multi-organ failure, and the importance of sanitization and proper personal protective equipment were only a fraction of the unique obstacles the high-risk mission presented.
But the opportunities to grow as a leader, both mentally and physically, are what drew Dolan to the Army in the first place.
"We saved many lives and helped provide comfort for thousands of ill people and their families," he said. "I've learned that with courage in the face of hardship and uncertainty, you may find strength you weren't aware you had."
Dolan (right) in front of Unity Hospital with Maj. Paul Harrigan of Buffalo, NY
While new to the Army Reserves, the Gainesville, FL-native has more than two-and-a-half years working in critical care under his belt. His two years of critical care unit (CCU) experience at St. Vincent's Medical Center in Jacksonville, FL, coupled with his current role in the surgical ICU at the city's Mayo Clinic, have qualified him for direct commission as an Army ICU nurse.
But Dolan's education didn't start on a path to nursing.
"While studying exercise science at Brockport, I became very interested in human anatomy and physiology as well as health science in general," said Dolan, who played rugby all four years of his undergraduate career. "My time there helped me build my foundational understanding of the human body and how it works while I was still figuring out which career I wanted to pursue."
Experiencing the role of a hospital technician, as well as treating some patients who were veterans, sealed his interest in both nursing and the military.
With 332-1 UAMTF under his belt, Dolan looks forward to continued professional growth at both Mayo and in the Army. His next missions: a doctorate from the Army's CRNA (nurse anesthetist) program and, eventually, active duty.