Lt. Col. DeAnna Hutchings is getting her moment in the sun for her dedicated service during the COVID-19 pandemic. As the manager of the largest intensive care unit in the Department of Defense, she’s one of 18 nurses to receive this year’s Circle of Excellence Award from the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses. The organization is paying tribute to Hutchings’ unflinching dedication to critically ill families and patients. Over the course of the pandemic, the military nurse has become a leader in patient safety.
A History of Excellence
As the Brooke Army Medical Center’s Chief of Critical Care, Hutchings has been on the front lines of the pandemic since day one. But she didn’t set out pursuing a career in medicine.
Growing up the daughter of a serviceman, she remembers making the decision to follow in her father’s footsteps at an early age. It wasn’t until she received a ROTC scholarship at the University of Central Arkansas when she first considered the idea of nursing.
“I enjoyed science but hadn’t considered nursing prior. But it definitely sounded interesting,” Hutchings remembers.
She went on to earn a bachelor’s degree in nursing before starting active duty in 2003. Soon after, she took on her first assignment at the Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC) in San Antonio, Texas. She was first assigned to Ward 2E, “But I was only there for two weeks before I was deployed to Iraq,” she said.
Hutchings returned home to work at the U.S. Army Institute of Surgical Research Burn Center, but the BAMC never strayed too far away. She continued serving at the facility on and off for several years while teaching at the U.S. Army Medical Center before returning full-time in 2017. After several years of service, she was elected as the center’s Chief of Critical Care in November of 2020, just when the third wave of the coronavirus was taking off here in the U.S.
She credits her skills on the job to her time serving overseas, including a particularly memorable assignment in Rwanda in 2019. “It is an amazing experience to be able to work in another country’s medical facility, share best practices and care for local nationals,” she said.
She also oversees the facility’s Rapid Response Program after working there since the start of the pandemic.
“Long before COVID was here, we knew we had to be prepared for a pandemic and had proposed to make ward 3S an isolated COVID unit,” Hutchings said. “It was gratifying to see the plan come to fruition quickly and efficiently and to know that we were ready to react when needed. None of it would have been possible without everyone working together.”
Singled Out for Leadership
Now, the American Association of Critical-Care Nurses is giving Hutchings her due. The Circle of Excellence Award is reserved for those who exemplify excellence in critical-care situations. She’s the only military nurse to receive this year’s honor after being nominated by some of her fellow nurses at BAMC.
Assistant Director of Critical Care Karriemah Munson offered praise for her colleague. “Lt. Col. Hutchings lays down her heart and soul for the critical care mission at BAMC and the patients we serve. She is selfless in her care and gives 110 percent daily without reservation. I wish there were more people in the world like her,” she said.
Hutchings’ boss, Army Lt. Col. Jody Brown, deputy commander for inpatient services, agreed. “DeAnna is extremely deserving of this award. A wildly driven and focused leader, DeAnna is dedicated to critical care nursing and wholeheartedly invested in pursuing excellence at all levels. I couldn’t be more proud of her accomplishment!”
In addition, according to the AACN, “Under her leadership, the Rapid Response Team has expanded to provide services for the new alert system”
But Hutchings remains humble. “I work with so many amazing medical professionals and support personnel who work incredibly hard and deserve recognition. It’s a surreal feeling to be singled out for this honor,” she said.
As for her next steps, Hutchings, a mother of five, says she remains committed to the BAMC. “I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else if I was sick. I delivered my children here. My uncle was treated here, and my mom passed away here. The care throughout has been truly exceptional.”
“For me, this place isn’t just work,” she continued. “I have awesome coworkers, a great team, and the memories of the people I love are still here. I am honored and proud to serve at BAMC.”
We applaud Lt. Col. Hutchings for everything she’s done for her patients during these unprecedented times.