Class of 2021: Master's Degree Grad to Land at Military's Top Hospital

RIC Class of 2021 graduate James Jeff and his husband, Sokthar Srey

Jeff has risen through the ranks of the Navy since 2010 and will become a clinical nurse specialist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center this summer.

Consisting of 2.4 million-square-feet of clinical space, the Walter Reed National Military Medical Center (WRNNMC) in Maryland is considered the world's largest military hospital, serving up to a million beneficiaries each year, including several former presidents.

James Jeff, a Navy lieutenant commander, is set to assume a position this summer as a clinical nurse specialist at WRNNMC. While he believes he'll face a steep learning curve, a Rhode Island College adjunct professor who helped Jeff earn his master's Clinical Nurse Specialist (CNS) credentials at RIC this year predicts that Jeff's rock-solid 15-year career in nursing will continue to soar.

"Jim is an astute clinician and displays the key qualities necessary for the CNS advanced practice nurse (APRN) role," says Joan Walsh B.S.N. '83, M.S.N. '11, DNP '19, who guided Jeff through a clinical rotation in acute care at Rhode Island Hospital.  "He will provide excellent care to his patients and take on initiatives which will improve health outcomes. I foresee great success for him in making changes at all levels of the healthcare system."

Jeff, a Warwick native who received his B.S.N. from RIC in 2007, has been making exceptional strides in the military since joining the Navy in 2010. On three occasions, he's been deployed to either Afghanistan or Iraq, where he's led trauma and intensive care units in the midst of war.

These experiences, he says, have prepared him to be a master at thinking on his feet.

"It's definitely challenging because after you see so much trauma, it's easy to get burnt out," he says. "But I've learned to be self-reliant and to use my training to make important decisions within seconds."

He made the decision to apply for the Navy's Duty Under Instruction program, which allows approved applicants an opportunity to matriculate in a M.S.N. program for two years, with the Navy covering the expense. Upon graduation, the applicant owes the Navy four more years of service.

"The Navy views graduate school as a way to advance your nursing career and it's also a requirement for career promotion," Jeff says.

A friend who had gone through Rhode Island College's M.S.N. program told Jeff that it was an outstanding experience, and now that Jeff has been through it, he concurs.

"Every single faculty member found a way to get what I needed and went above and beyond in the middle of a pandemic," he says. "If I had to give my clinical rotations a grade, it'd be an A-plus. I'm prepared to be the best acute care clinical nurse I can be, and to bring those skills to the military is an asset because what I learned are also deployment readiness skills."

Jeff, who maintained a 4.0 grade point average throughout the program, conducted research on the impact of high-fidelity simulation on military nurses' confidence. Aside from the M.S.N., Jeff also earned certificates of graduate study in Healthcare and Patient Safety and Nursing Care Management.

Jeff says he's known from childhood that nursing would be his calling, as he witnessed how good critical nursing care helped improve the emotional well-being of chronically ill family members. As a result, his nursing influence has caught on with family, too; his husband, Sokthar Srey, is working toward earning his B.S.N. at RIC in 2022 and his sister is a nursing student at CCRI.

As he prepares to head to WRNMMC in June, Jeff says he's anxious because he'll be a novice again and "you can only be prepared so much before you have to jump in and do it."

Walsh, his nursing professor, says Jeff is prepared for this mission and his patients will be the ones who benefit most.

"He has been a self-motivated, goal-oriented student who places the patient at the center of his practice and seeks out any and all learning opportunities to further his knowledge and expertise," Walsh says. "Most importantly, he practices with care, building relationships with his peers and his patients. It has been an honor to be part of his academic journey."