By Col. Meritt Phillips | Army Reserve Medical Command
U.S. Army Reserve 1st Lt. Michelle Kaplan, a native of Chicago, Illinois, mobilized with a U.S. Army Reserve Urban Augmentation Medical Task Force as part of the Department of Defense support to the Federal Emergency Management Agency as part of the whole-of-America COVID-19 response.
Specifically created to respond in this time of crisis, the UAMTF is designed to augment the civilian medical community by delivering a wide range of critical medical capabilities. Each 85-person UAMTF consists of doctors, nurses, combat medics, respiratory specialists, and ancillary personnel that expand the capacity of care that civilian medical facilities can offer their community.
Kaplan, a critical care nurse assigned to UAMTF – 7452, deployed to provide support to DHR Health in Edinburg, Texas. Her team is from the Army Reserve Medical Command, Western Medical Area Readiness Support Group, based out of San Diego, Calif.
“The staff has been working tirelessly to save lives and they are exhausted. I am honored to share my skills and knowledge as a nurse to those who need it most during this time.”
In her civilian career she works in the pre and post-operative services at Evans Army Community Hospital, Fort Carson, Colo., and resides in Colorado Springs, Colo.
“I have been a nurse for almost six years, but nothing really prepares anyone for what we are doing here. These patients are so sick,” she explained. “The environment is fast-paced, and the condition of a patient can decline rapidly, so you always need to be on your game.”
An alumna of St. Francis University in Joliet, Illinois, Kaplan was introduced to nursing through a friend.
“I remember being so interested in what she was studying that I decided to switch gears and chose nursing,” she shared. “I started working as a certified nursing assistant and quickly decided that nursing was where I belonged. I love caring for others.”
Kaplan revealed that joining the Army was always in the back of her mind and admitted she was regularly drawn to Army nursing recruiting displays when attending national nursing conventions.
“I craved adventure, leadership, and to broaden my horizon in a way that would push me beyond what I already knew about being a nurse,” she explained. “I knew the Army would open a lot of potential for me, but I put it off for quite some time. The idea was daunting as no one in my family had any military affiliation.”
Kaplan cast her initial reservations aside and joined the military in 2016.
“The Army has taught me what it’s like to lead with confidence in my civilian career and my Army career. I know I made the right decision, because I haven’t looked back.”
Kaplan is attempting to continue her studies to become a family nurse practitioner despite being mobilized in addition to consciously prioritizing her own well-being.
“Self-care has always been important to me and the way I deal with stress in my life. I turn to yoga and meditation for major stress relief, and I am currently finishing up my certification as a yoga instructor online.”
She also recognized the strong support system she has at home. Her husband Brian Kaplan, is also a Soldier in the Army Reserve.
“We both knew it was always a possibility that Michelle would mobilize with an UAMTF, but the speed in which it happened surprised us both,” he said. “I’m incredibly proud of my wife and the magnificent level of care she provides.”
As Kaplan prepared to start her third week of twelve-hour shifts, caring for patients in South Texas, she shared a final comment.
“I am proud to be a Soldier and to work alongside some of the most intelligent and genuine people I have been graced to know as we care for our fellow Americans.”