First Lt. Carruth: Keesler’s Trusted Care Hero

KEESLER AIR FORCE BASE, Miss. --

“My motto is, ‘if not me, then who else will’,” said 1st Lt. Clarissa Carruth, 81st Inpatient Operation Squadron clinical nurse. “I strive to continue to improve patient care practices and be a voice for the Airmen working the floor.”

Carruth participated in the University of Portland Air Force ROTC program while obtaining her nursing degree in Oregon. After graduation, in May of 2014, she became a commissioned officer in the United States Air Force.    

Following three months of training, she found herself at Keesler Air Force Base, Mississippi, where she received recognized as a Trusted Care Hero. This recognition is given by the Air Force Medical Service to Air Force medical personnel who embody the values of: duty to speak up, respect for people, zero harm and maximize value for the patient.

“Carruth is definitely one of those pretty pennies that we receive,” said Maj. Tameka Poston, 81st IPTS medical surgical inpatient flight commander. “She has really blossomed as a first-time nurse in the military and has developed not only great nursing skills, but great leadership skills.”

During her time at the 81st Medical Group, she improved patient care and safety with knowledge she learned as a nursing student.

“When I first got here we were transporting the patients ourselves, which was difficult because it would take us off the floor a lot,” said Carruth. “After seeing a decrease in patient care (need), volunteers transported the patients and instead of relying completely on verbal communication to maintain patient safety during transport, I thought a Ticket to Ride would be perfect to have.”

The staff implemented Ticket to Ride six months ago which is a nonverbal communication tool used to increase patient safety. The card accompanies a patient during transport and it has all the information needed to ensure patient safety and zero harm. 

“She really has a sense of hope, goals and aspirations that has allowed her to pay it forward and lead others,” said Poston. “She has a better sense of self and how to give back to the organization.”

Along with wanting to maximize the value for patient care and provide zero harm, Carruth also wanted to provide an atmosphere where her team felt they could voice concerns and make recommendations for improvement.  

“It can be frustrating sometimes when things change and you feel like you don’t really have a voice,” said Carruth. “I wanted to empower the Airmen to speak up with ideas for improvement and not only address issues, but develop solutions. The Unit Advisory Council is our voice box and it allows us to come together monthly to discuss ways to keep up with the standard of care and express anything that might need to be improved.”

The council, which began in January researches procedures and stays up-to-date with current evidence-based nursing practices, which are subject to change every five years. With Carruth as president, the council has brought change to the unit.

“The council has already made an impact on the Airmen and the organization,” said Carruth. “From our research we have been able to update our wound care binder with the latest procedures and make it visible on posters throughout the floor. Now we are researching the updated patient-to-care ratio to ensure that we stay current.”    

What makes her one of Keesler’s Trusted Care Heroes is that she found the time to make a difference during a hectic 12-13 hour shift that consist of providing care daily patient care while overseeing four to five nurses, coordinating the nurse’s schedules and caring for the patients.

 “It is an honor to be recognized, but I couldn’t do it without the phenomenal team I have,” said Carruth. “We have about 30 nurses and 20 technicians and together we provide trusted care to our patients, which is what is most important to us.”