An official website of the United States government
Here's how you know
A .mil website belongs to an official U.S. Department of Defense organization in the United States.
A lock (lock ) or https:// means you’ve safely connected to the .mil website. Share sensitive information only on official, secure websites.

Warrior Operational Medicine Clinic (WOMC) moved  - click for more information!

News & Gallery


News | May 7, 2024

Air Force nurse puts trauma experience to test in new role

By Robyn Stulgaitis

Trauma nurse Capt. Angela Leonardo thrives on the chaos of the emergency room. As the Air Force’s only trauma center, Mike O’Callaghan Military Medical Center (MOMMC) offers Air Force medics like Leonardo valuable life-saving opportunities while also providing the Las Vegas community with additional access to emergency care.

A self-described “natural caregiver,” Leonardo dreamed of becoming a nurse since childhood. Leonardo enlisted in the Air Force and served four years in transportation management before separating from active duty to pursue her nursing degree.

“Becoming a nurse took me eight years because of life—a spouse, two children, and working full time,” said Leonardo. “But I made it happen.”

Leonardo worked as a civilian emergency room nurse for four years before commissioning at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio.

“When I commissioned, I was at the top of my game,” said Leonardo. “But Wright Patterson didn’t see the acuity of patients I was used to on the civilian side.”

Feeling as though her clinical skills as a trauma nurse weren’t being sufficiently challenged, Leonardo took it upon herself to earn three certifications in emergency room nursing through the Board of Certification for Emergency Nursing.

When she received orders to Nellis, Leonardo admits she was “a bit anxious.”

“I hadn’t worked in a trauma hospital in four years,” she said. “I had these certifications, but putting knowledge back into use can be hard.”

Leonardo had the opportunity to refresh her clinical skills through a two-week rotation at University Medical Center (UMC), a longstanding community partner of the 99th Medical Group. For over 20 years, local military and civilian medical resources have combined to support the readiness efforts of 99th Medical Group medics. Through these partnerships, Air Force medics have opportunities to integrate into civilian settings to develop and sustain clinical skills necessary in combat areas.

“Medical Treatment Facilities at military installations in the United States rarely have the clinical complexity and volume to train and sustain a ready medical force,” said Col. (Dr.) Jeremy Kilburn, Director of the Office of Military Medicine, the governing body behind these rotation programs. “By integrating with local facilities like UMC, Air Force medics can gain those critical exposures and bring that expertise back to MOMMC and to the expeditionary environment.”

While at UMC, Nevada’s only level I trauma center, Leonardo was able to assist with gunshot wounds, significant head injuries, and multiple fractures—substantial injuries not frequently seen in MOMMC’s military population.

“That rotation gave me my confidence back and assured me that I can still do hard things,” said Leonardo.

After returning to work at MOMMC, Leonardo’s trauma skills were immediately put to the test. Fifteen minutes into her shift, a civilian gunshot victim was rushed to MOMMC’s emergency room by a local ambulance crew. Acting as charge nurse, Leonardo led MOMMC’s trauma response, preparing staff and the trauma room for the patient’s arrival.

Once the patient arrived in the emergency department, treatment was swift. Only 18 minutes elapsed from ambulance arrival to when the patient was wheeled into the operating room on MOMMC’s third floor.

“Because we were close by, we were able to give this patient a chance at survival,” said Leonardo.

Up until a few years ago, Leonardo’s patient may not have had that chance. Since 2021, MOMMC has been fully integrated into the Southern Nevada Health System, accepting civilian patients into the Emergency Department arriving by ambulance. As the only hospital in northeast Las Vegas, an accessible trauma center can mean the difference between life and death for anyone critically injured nearby.

Not only does MOMMC serve as a safety-net to the local healthcare infrastructure, the expansion of services offers Air Force medical professionals like Leonardo the opportunity to treat injuries rarely seen in the typical military-only hospital. Leonardo values the unique experience MOMMC offers.

“We do a lot of things here that are not done anywhere else,” said Leonardo. “It’s preparing us for what may come in the future and sets us up for success to save many lives.”
Need to Update Your Information in DEERS? Click Here