Passion Fuels a Military and Civilian Nursing Career


By Scott Files, contributor

Her enthusiasm was emblazoned on her face from the moment we met, and the photos she brought along from her long nursing career each showed an undeniable warmth and endearing smile that conveyed true happiness. During our conversation, she painted a vibrant nursing history that was much larger than the sum of its parts; it was a roadmap of a bright-eyed girl who found her true calling and her passion along the way.

Her name is Myla Mason, RN, BSN, and her story of service in military nursing and the private sector embody the great things nurses do every day all across this country.

Myla Mason, early nursing career
As a new second lieutenant in the Air Force in the 1990s, Myla Mason, RN, BSN, referenced the nursing drug handbook while preparing a patient’s medication. Photo provided by Myla Mason.

In 1990, Mason was fresh out of nursing school, and, in her words, “The world was an open door.” Coming from an Air Force family, she decided that a short stint in the service would allow her to put her nursing degree to work and provide opportunities to see the country--and even the world.

Tensions were slowly building in the Middle East at the time, and she was ready to serve her country if it needed her. But more than anything, she was excited for the chance to finally experience the world of pediatric nursing.

“The military really prepared me for my nursing career,” she said, recounting the Air Force’s new graduate training program and how its fast-paced environment provided a broad array of experience.

“You kind of hit the ground running,” Mason explained, reeling off the military hospitals where she was stationed, both stateside and abroad, including Vandenberg in Southern California and a military installment in Misawa, Japan. Each location held new experiences, new co-workers and new opportunities to work with the pediatrics population she loved.

There was only one thing missing: a scheduled deployment to the Middle East. But instead of regretting the missed opportunities of such a deployment, she now realizes how that time defined her nursing career more than any other. “It was then that I became the true definition of a nurse,” she said.

“Staffing was so thin because of overseas deployments that I was forced to grow and think outside what I thought I was capable of. I found a new kind of confidence, not only in my nursing skills, but also in my ability to adapt to new challenges and solve problems.”

“It was that defining moment that I think all nurses share; the moment when you realize you are truly ready to spread your wings and fly,” she explained.

One particular moment stands out in her mind.

Myla Mason, new to military nursing
Despite the rigors of boot camp and the seriousness of preparing for wartime situations, Myla Mason (right) and a fellow medical services officer found a reason to smile about their experiences. Photo provided by Myla Mason.

“It was during the war when we were really short staffed. A young man came in, needing help. He wasn’t physically wounded, but just looked mentally exhausted,” Mason recalled. “He was upset and angry, and since there was no one else to help him, I just did what came naturally: I listened. It turned out to be my first experience with PTSD, and I found that lending a sympathetic ear was all it took to help him get through that trying moment.”

That experience stayed with her throughout her time as a nurse, following her to new locations, hospitals and wards, and into each patient encounter.

As her military nursing career grew, Mason fell into a new role when she was asked to fill in on the labor and delivery unit.

“There’s just something magical about bringing new life into the world; you’re there from the beginning,” she said. “I never knew how fulfilling it would be until I experienced it, and then it became my passion, helping military families, seeing the smiles on their faces, watching generations celebrate new life.“

“But there’s the dark side of that specialty, too,” she added, “and when neonatal loss occurs, it never gets easier, no matter how many times you’ve seen it.” It was at those times when her earlier experience with that young PTSD patient helped her know what to do; just listen and let the person know that you care. “You become more than a nurse when you deal with grieving families; you’re almost like a counselor, and in some cases, a consoling family member. It’s by far the hardest part of the job.”

Mason’s story is about more than her passion for nursing; it’s also a story of adventure, compassion and following your own career path.

Myla Mason, promoted to captain, military nursing
When promoted to captain, nurse Myla Mason was joined by her father (left), who was her inspiration to enter the medical field and the Air Force, and her hospital commander (right). Photo provided by Myla Mason.

She laughs as she looks back at her expectations for a short stint in military nursing: “It turned into 21 years.”

Recognizing that her path may be different than others, Mason maintains that “all nurses, no matter where their careers take them, share a need to be there for their patients. It’s just who we are.”

Mason now works as director of clinical services at AMN Healthcare, using her experiences to help nurses achieve their own goals as travel nurses. She considers the many locations where she worked during her nursing career as training ground for her current position.

“I like to think I help nurses grow,” she said. “Helping them harness the immense benefits they’ll gain from travel nursing is part of my job. It’s about the interpersonal relationships they’ll gain, the new experience on different computer systems, working with new patient populations, and the overall satisfaction they’ll get from helping out in facilities that really need them.”

“I encourage anyone who craves something new to give travel nursing a chance,” she continued. “I truly believe it will help them grow their skillset at any point in their career.”

As our conversation ended, Mason offered one final piece of advice for fellow nurses: “Be open to new situations and opportunities, and don’t hesitate to spread your wings.”

To find out more about travel nursing opportunities and how you can spread your wings as a travel nurse, request a call today!’s staffing partners are ready to answer your questions.

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