Commander monitors professional pulse

Freedom New Mexico: Argen Duncan Cannon Family Practice Element Leader Capt. Lorraine Rivera-Emmanuelli shows personnel information to Lt. Col. James Reineke, chief nurse and Medical Operations Squadron commander.

By Argen Duncan: Freedom New Mexico

Lt. Col. Jim Reineke keeps his finger of the professional pulse of the nurses and medical technicians at Cannon Air Force Base.

For almost a year, Reineke has served as base chief nurse and handled executive oversight for education and training, as well as being the Medical Operations Squadron Commander.

In those jobs, Reineke mentors junior personnel and makes sure the clinic is adequately staffed. He ensures nurses and medical technicians are proficient for their work at Cannon and possible deployment.

Reineke begins and ends his days in the base medical clinic to see what’s really happening and how staff members are working with patients to meet their needs, he said.

“That’s where I need to be, down there where the rubber really meets the road,” Reineke said.

He said patient care is a team effort and works particularly closely with senior medical technician Master Sgt. Andrea Lee.

Although he doesn’t do much hands-on care, Reineke said he loves the interaction he has with patients and the way he can help them by guiding the nurses and medical technicians.

“You can really contact the patients and really make a difference with them,” he said.

Reineke also said he enjoys having an impact on young troops’ careers and seeing them notice a possibility or accomplishment. He helps them connect their work on base with readiness for deployment and with the mission of the Air Force and 27th Special Operations Wing.

Chief nurse and training oversight work covers the three medical-related squadrons on base, but Reineke’s squadron commander efforts focus on the Medical Operations Squadron.

Of Reineke’s time, about 30 percent goes to his chief nurse duties, he estimated. Because he has a young staff, chief nurse work requires more time than it would with more senior personnel.

As the Medical Operations Squadron commander, Reineke handles the same administrative, oversight and personnel issues as other squadron commanders, he said. That squadron handles family, children’s and women’s health care, mental health, vaccinations, physical therapy, radiology and education and training.

Executive oversight for education and training involves making sure nurses and medical technicians receive the necessary training and skill advancements, and are competent. Newcomer orientations and educational programs on skills contribute to that goal.

“Balancing requirements is the hardest part,” Reineke said of his job. “In today’s Air Force, there are so many training requirements.”

He has to make sure the staff members have the training they need, keep them ready to deploy and help them meet their individual goals.

Reineke entered the nursing field because he didn’t want to go to school long enough to become a doctor, and he wanted more contact with patients. After two years in civilian nursing, Reineke wanted to work in different places without losing seniority.

“Unless you stayed for years, you didn’t move up,” he said. “It wasn’t for me.”

Initially, Reineke signed up for three years in the Air Force because four seemed like such a long time. He has stayed 21 years.

Reineke rose to the position of chief nurse through experience in a variety of clinical and administrative jobs, and learned what to expect from seminars and people in similar positions.

In Reineke’s Air Force career, including multiple deployments, he said, he found diverse opportunities he wouldn’t have imagined in the civilian nursing world. In the military, he also sees more teamwork, an aspect he finds rewarding.