‘Ethic of Selfless Service’: Nurse Reflects on Military, Healthcare Careers
Nov 8, 2021
Sutter Health
Man in army fatigues poses with rifle and military helicopter and mountains in the background

As we observe Veterans’ Day, we feature the personal story Ernesto Brizuela, R.N., nurse administrator of Alhambra Surgery Center in Sacramento, Calif., part of Sutter Health’s integrated network. He enlisted in the U.S. Air Force in 1998 and served 15 years on active duty. He continues serving in the U.S. Army Reserve, where he’s a captain.

Brizuela reflects on his military service and how it has shaped his career caring for patients.

I’m a first generation American. My dad immigrated from El Salvador when he was a teenager and joined the Air Force after graduating high school. Even though he wasn’t native to this country, he was patriotic and served for 33 years. That spoke to me. It was a lesson in patriotism and giving back.

After I started community college, I knew I wanted to be a nurse, but needed help paying for college. That’s when I joined the military. I eventually started a nursing program while in the military. It took longer than planned, but I got my bachelor’s degree on active duty.

What serving means to him

Bald, Caucasian man in Army fatigues sitting at desk

Ernesto Brizuela, R.N., in 2018

Being in the military is humbling and lets me know I’m part of something much bigger than myself. I feel like I’m picking up the flag and continuing the march to help America defend its place in the world and defend other countries, not just during wartime but during peacetime.

I’ve been deployed during wartime in Qatar and Afghanistan to provide care for our troops and members of the international forces. More recently, with the Army Reserve, I’ve been on medical missions to Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, and Nicaragua. It’s really rewarding.

In January 2021, my unit was called to provide COVID-19 response in Gallup, N.M. We were able to support the underserved people of the Navajo Nation, who had a high incidence of COVID without enough medical services. I was assigned to a COVID ward there for three months.

From the military to healthcare

My military training helps me lead my Sutter team. The military taught me not to leave anyone behind. If someone needs to know something, I tell them right away. Quick communication has been key many times, and I’ve learned how to have difficult but necessary conversations. I also have learned the importance of resiliency and loyalty.

That ethic of selfless service in the military translates to my work here. I give it my all.

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