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Nursing student completes ROTC internship in Germany

Recent SDSU College of Nursing graduate Luke Morris practices his skills in a simulation lab on campus.
Recent SDSU College of Nursing graduate Luke Morris practices his skills in a simulation lab on campus.

By Rylin Yerdon

One student’s involvement in two demanding programs at South Dakota State University took him to another continent for the internship opportunity of a lifetime.

Luke Morris, a Harrisburg native who graduated May 4 with a Bachelor of Science in Nursing, completed a month-long Army internship last summer at the Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Landstuhl, Germany. The training was a good fit for someone who wants to become an emergency room Army nurse.

“A brigade nurse counselor told me it would be a great opportunity, and I applied through the Army program. It was based on grades and such, and they chose where I would go,” Morris said.

Upon his arrival in Germany, Morris experienced some unexpected difficulties at first.

“I didn’t think to set up my phone with an international plan, so I showed up and everything in the airport was in a different language and I didn’t have any phone connection. It was a bit of a culture shock for sure.”

Morris worked 12-hour shifts at a time while at Landstuhl. During those shifts, he worked in the ER, the intensive care unit, participated in surgeries, completed trauma training with soldiers, and met with public health officials on the Army base.

Out of everything he was able to take part in, Morris particularly enjoyed the trauma training.

Luke Morris is shown on an Army ROTC obstacle course.
Recent SDSU nursing graduate Luke Morris wants to become an emergency room Army nurse and eventually be part of an Army forward surgical team.

“We got to have dummies, and they brought in a doctor. They had techs, X-rays, medics, and they had other nurses and nursing students like us,” Morris said. “We did a four-hour training in the morning where we got to do chest tubes and intubations, and then the next four hours in the afternoon was spent working in small teams. … They would bring in these high-fidelity dummies that would move and shake, and we had to work as a team to fix them up. That was really exciting. It made me more confident that this was the area I wanted to go into.”

Morris also wants to eventually be part of an Army forward surgical team, which are small, mobile surgical units that are deployed in the field and operate close to the front lines.

During his internship, Morris noticed that the hospitals in Germany run similarly to those in the United States, but one thing that stuck out to him was the enthusiasm of the soldiers and doctors who oversaw training.

“One thing I didn’t expect but was happily surprised by was how willing everybody was to train people and teach people. Any person I asked any question, they were super excited to tell me,” Morris said. “All the patients were also soldiers or family of, and they were super open to letting people train on them and letting students be in the room.”

When he wasn’t working, Morris enjoyed sightseeing and traveling around surrounding areas.

“I got to go on a day trip to Switzerland — a bus trip through the Army program. Another cadet and I went on a train trip through the Swiss Alps. We toured a chocolate factory and a cheese factory, and we saw Lake Geneva. It was really cool,” Morris said.

Outside of ROTC and nursing classes, Morris also served as an EMT in Brookings, another opportunity to put his training to good use and to learn how to communicate with people in distress. He also completed clinicals in Sioux Falls. Juggling nursing school, ROTC, clinicals and his EMT role was no small feat.

“It takes a decent amount of planning,” Morris said. “I’ve gotten better at it for sure. … Sometimes I have to pack four different outfits in my car and go from one thing to the next. It’s also been nice that the nursing program and the ROTC program have been really flexible at working together.”

After graduation, Morris has been studying for the National Council Licensure Examination for his nursing license, and then he heads to Fort Sam Houston in Texas for 11 weeks of Army training. After that, he’ll be sent to his first duty station; he’s hoping to land in Hawaii or Washington.

“No matter where I end up, I know it will be a good time. You get to work with some top-notch people in the Army, and I look forward to that, wherever I go,” Morris said.