WRNMMC, Bethesda, Md. –
Growing up, The Hunt for Red October, a thrilling 1990s cinematic adventure starring Alec Baldwin as CIA analyst Jack Ryan, captured the attention and imagination of U.S. Navy Lt. Claire Burke, who briefly flirted with the idea of becoming an intelligence analyst before pursing her naval nursing career.
“For as long as I can remember, I’ve liked solving puzzles, critical thinking and anything that can get my adrenaline going,” explained Burke, a mother and mountain climber committed to exploring life’s great adventures.
Reserved Officers’ Training Corps – A Disciplined Path to Self-Discovery
While in high school, Burke excelled academically and athletically – earning admission to Villanova University on a Reserved Officers’ Training Corps (ROTC) scholarship. It was a natural fit for Burke, who admired the path taken by former U.S. Navy nurse Connie Stamateris – a family friend whose health care journey fascinated Burke.
“Her commitment to public service and sense of adventure inspired me to pursue a nursing career,” reminisced Burke. After earning her degree in nursing from Villanova, Burke completed a forensic nursing program through Penn State University.
Burke found forensic nursing intellectually appealing as well emotionally challenging, providing medical support to victims of sexual assaults, human trafficking, attempted homicide, and child and elder abuse. Despite those challenges, she honed her nursing and problem-solving skills, becoming an even more empathetic listener and patient advocate – all of which make her an exceptional leader at Walter Reed.
Diverse Experiences Lead to Exceptional Opportunities
“I thrive by exploring different specialties and continually learning,” shared Burke, who is pursuing a doctorate in nursing practice from Georgetown University. During her nursing career, she’s accepted opportunities in forensics, informatics, patient care, and quality and safety management.
These days, Burke plays a pivotal role as an administrator with Walter Reed’s Mother and Infant Care Center (MICC), frequently waking up with early morning status alerts as she mentally prepares her daily to-do list before arriving on base to assist with patients or oversee administrative matters.
Walter Reed – A Dream Come True
Although Burke’s journey has taken her to many ports, she always dreamed that one day she would have the privilege of working at Walter Reed. “It’s like nothing I’ve ever experienced in my 11-years as a Navy nurse,” commented Burke, enjoying the opportunity to work with and mentor nurses from the Army, Navy, and Air Force.
Although there are many opportunities to have an enjoyable and sustainable nursing career in both the military and private sector, Burke believes there are more paths for leadership, growth, and education under the DHA.
Moreover, Burke believes military nurses forge great friendships – a positive byproduct of traveling the world as part of medical units in Europe, Asia, and other intriguing destinations.
Burke said her greatest joy was giving birth to her two sons at Walter Reed, surrounded by her coworkers who are now part of her extended family. “They took great care of us,” Burke reminisced while reflecting on how much her sons have grown in just a few short years.
While stationed in Japan, Burke, and her team summitted Mount Fuji, an active volcano about 100 kilometers southwest of Tokyo. It’s the country’s tallest peak, at 3,776 meters, according to the National Geographic Society. For Burke and her team, this pilgrimage to this sacred and iconic venue forged friendships that will last a lifetime.
Physical and Emotional Resilience
Burke understands the synergy created by remaining emotionally and physically strong. “I love yoga and running,” shared Burke, who trains almost daily preparing for this October’s Marine Corps Marathon. “I hold myself accountable, setting aside 30 minutes a day to train,” said Burke, who is looking forward to being one of approximately 30,000 participants in the marathon.
“Take advantage of every opportunity - don’t close doors to your future,” recalled Burke – reflecting on her father’s wisdom. “Life is your oyster.”