Commissioned Corps of the U.S. Public Health Service

Nurse Professional Advisory Committee

CDR Turknett standing

Spotlighting the Career of CDR Velia Turknett

Biography Contributed by: LCDR Allison Gallen

This Nursing Spotlight is brought to you by CDR Amy Valderrama, CDR Nichole Vetter and LT Alyssa Givens

CDR Velia Turknett came to this country from Mexico when she was just eleven years old. In 1991, while living here as a legal resident she enlisted in the Army and in 1996 she was granted U.S. citizenship. During her enlistment she worked as a surgical tech and longed to further her education by becoming a Registered Nurse. She fulfilled that dream in 2001 when she graduated from the University of Alaska Anchorage with her Bachelor of Science in Nursing. After graduation, CDR Turknett returned to the Operating Room (OR), however this time as an RN.

In 2003, she made the decision to join the USPHS and began her second uniformed service career as a Commissioned Officer. For three years CDR Turknett worked in the OR at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage. This all changed when she accepted the opportunity to go on a temporary duty assignment (TDY) for thirty days in Kotzebue, Alaska. Kotzebue is a remote village located north of the Arctic Circle and has a popula-tion of approximately 4,300 people. While serving on TDY, she was offered a full time position and decided to take on this new adventure because she fell in love with the community. From 2005 to 2008 she filled numerous roles and took full advantage of the opportunities that being a Nurse Officer in this small remote village offered. She started by working within the Specialty Clinics and cared for patients seeing outpatient Cardiolo-gy, Orthopedics, Pediatrics, Endoscopy and the Ear, Nose and Throat service. CDR Turknett’ s many years of experience in the OR made her the perfect fit to take over the multifactorial position of Infection Control, Central Sterile Supply and as the Employee Health Manager. As part of this position she traveled to rural villages teaching hand sanitation. Living in a remote area proved to have many challenges such as providing education about hand hygiene to people who don’t have access to modern convenienc-es, including running water or indoor plumbing. She found this to be a very rewarding experience and encourages other nurses to, "take advantage of TDY experiences, especially in rural Alaska. It gives you the opportunity to work in places that you might not have considered."

In 2008, CDR Turknett transferred into the role of Cancer Program Manager. This position required her to complete extra coursework to specialize in cancer treatment and administration of chemotherapy. After the initial dose of chemotherapy was started in Anchorage, patients were then able to return to Kotzebue to receive their subsequent treatments. She also helped in the Endoscopy Department during this time by administering conscious sedation and working in Pre-op and Recovery. "Sometimes you need to be flexible and adapt to the need." The connections that she made in Kotzebue led to an opening in Ketchikan, Alas-ka as the Immunization Coordinator and Lead RN Case Man-ager. Her accomplishments as the Immunization Coordinator included increasing and maintaining a Government Performance and Results ACT (GPRA) standard of 92% for childhood immunizations.

After three years of exceptional service, CDR Turknett transferred to the Anchorage Native Primary Care Clinic in Anchorage, to work as an RN Case Manager. Since 2012, she has been managing a panel of approximately 1,100 Alaska Native and American Indian beneficiaries. She provides comprehensive nursing care which includes screening and prevention, chronic disease management and primary care coordination. In 2014, after 11 years of varied nursing experience and numerous duty stations throughout Alaska, CDR Turknett was selected, and accepted the position of Senior RN Mentor. She is a mentor and lead to six RN Case Managers. Throughout all of her experiences, CDR Turknett stresses, "Enjoy what you do every day. It is important to try new things and continue to learn and grow."

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