Military experience helps shape BJC care director’s leadership style
Celebrating Veterans Day Nov. 11
Her stint in the Navy Nurse Corps is behind her, but Mika Walter says the lessons she learned in the military are ones she has put to good use in nursing and leadership positions across BJC — including her current position as patient care operations director at Christian Hospital, she says.
Walter first decided to join the military after hearing her father talk about his days in the Navy as one the best times of his life. She liked the idea of traveling while serving her country.
So, after graduating from the former Barnes College of Nursing, she talked to a recruiter about joining the Navy or Navy Reserves. But a frustrating recruiting experience led her to start working in the Barnes-Jewish Hospital emergency department (ED) instead.
The idea of joining the Navy or the Reserves stayed with her, though.
In 2000, the Navy was actively recruiting emergency and critical care nurses. With her bachelor’s degree in nursing and real-life experience in the ED, Walter agreed to enter the Navy Reserves as a commissioned officer. She received her commission in July 2001, and expected to go to officers training in the fall.
Then, the world changed.
On Sept. 11, 2001, Walter was the charge nurse in the Barnes-Jewish Hospital ED on an uncharacteristically quiet morning. When the staff started to hear “a little hum about something big” going on, a few went into the waiting room to check the TV.
“We saw the plane hit the second [World Trade Center] tower,” Walter says.
Her manager called in and asked Walter to find out how many of the ED staff were military or Reserve members. She counted at least 17.
The rest of the day, Walter was too busy with patients to follow the news. Later, at home, she realized that her manager had called to figure out how many of the staff might be called to active duty. It struck her that she could be one of them.
“I was nervous,” she says. “I wasn’t sure what was going to happen next.”
Rather than officers training, Walter reported to duty. At the time, she says, she had only one uniform and didn’t even know how to wear it properly. She attended officers training in October.
She became more comfortable as time went on. As a member of the Navy Nurse Corps attached to the military hospital unit at St. Louis Lambert International Airport, Walter’s duties included supporting troops going to active duty, giving new recruits onboarding physicals and caring for sick or injured troops.
Walter was sent to leadership schools across the U.S. The schools taught her valuable lessons and reinforced the principle that still guides her leadership style today: Leadership means taking care of your people.
It’s a lesson that translates well from the military to the medical setting. How a manager treats their staff affects how the staff cares for patients and each other, she says.
“That’s so important,” she says. “How you take care of your people is what gives you your strength.”
Recognizing BJC’s military heroes Nov. 11
Hear more about Walter’s military experience and the lessons she learned during the BJC Veterans Connection group virtual Veterans Day celebration to honor military veterans and current service members at www.BJC.org/ConnectionsEvents from noon-1 p.m., Thursday, Nov. 11. Each hospital and service organization will also thank military heroes locally.
Team members who RSVP’d for the celebration will receive additional details about joining the event and local recognition activities. If you didn’t RSVP, you are still welcome to tune in to the virtual celebration. Learn more about the event.
Celebrate military heroes
Honor family members and friends who served or currently serve in the military by posting a photo or tribute message in the Veterans Connection Yammer community. Show your support by Nov. 11, and you could receive a token of thanks! (Duo needed if off the network).