Scott Air Force Base News

Chief Nurse leads, grows future medical leaders, technicians

Col. Colleen Frohling, 375th Medical Group chief nurse, commissioned into the Air Force as a nurse after being a nurse for 10 years. She has served more than 24 years in the Air Force.
Col. Colleen Frohling, 375th Medical Group chief nurse, commissioned into the Air Force as a nurse after being a nurse for 10 years. She has served more than 24 years in the Air Force.

For Col. Colleen Frohling, an Illinois native and mother of six, being the Chief Nurse for the 375th Medical Group at Scott Air Force Base has provided her a platform to not only care for patients, but also to grow future nurses and technicians.

With more than 500,000 seasoned registered nurses anticipated to retire by 2022, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics projects the need for 1.1 million new RNs for expansion and replacement of retirees to avoid a nursing shortage.

You can see how contagious her passion for quality patient care is when you encounter a member of her nursing staff. Her commitment to continuous training and sharpening of patient care skills directly impacts our ability to provide the best care possible.

Sgt. Sherod Thompson, 375th Medical Operations Squadron superintendent

And, after 24 years of military service, she knows just how important these career fields are for the ultimate strength of America’s fighting forces. As a chief nurse she interviews potential nursing officers such as candidates for the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program and civilian nurses looking to commission into the Air Force.

“My first question is: What is the mission of the United States Air Force and how do you fit in,” said Frohling. “Very often people come in not knowing why they want to come in. I want people to know why they are coming in because they are part of the team.”

Teamwork, she said, is so critical, which was evident to her during her two deployments where the bases had numerous casualties and diversity of patients.

“We are nurses, and we are there to take care of friend or foe,” said Frohling. “As a leader I had to make sure that all my nurses and technicians remembered why we were there.”

Senior Master Sgt. Sherod Thompson, 375th Medical Operations Squadron superintendent, explained how the chief nurse is one of the most important individuals in a medical unit because this is the person that oversees the training, employment, and standards of practice for the entire nursing staff.

As a chief nurse she interviews potential nursing officers such as candidates for the Nurse Enlisted Commissioning Program and civilian nurses looking to commission into the Air Force.

“This includes all nurses and medical technicians. The nursing staff has the greatest involvement and impact on a patient's care and therefore a sub-par or mediocre chief nurse is going to lead to a sub-par or mediocre nursing staff and therefore sub-par or mediocre medical care,” Thompson said.

“You can see how contagious her passion for quality patient care is when you encounter a member of her nursing staff. Her commitment to continuous training and sharpening of patient care skills directly impacts our ability to provide the best care possible.”

Frohling’s journey to this position began after she graduated from Kankakee Community College at the age of 19 with an Associate’s of Science in Nursing and became a registered nurse.

After being a nurse for 10 years she decided she wanted to do more with her career in Nursing. She decided she wanted to join the Air Force and she made it her goal to get her Bachelor’s of Science in Nursing at Olivet Nazarene University.

“I had brothers who were Marines and they encouraged me to look into the military,” said Frohling. “I reached out to a recruiter early on, about a year before I graduated with my bachelors.”

My first question is: What is the mission of the United States Air Force and how do you fit in. Very often people come in not knowing why they want to come in. I want people to know why they are coming in because they are part of the team.

Col. Colleen Frohling, 375th Medical Group chief nurse

Frohling and her husband both worked full-time in order to raise their five children at the time and pay for a private school that would allow her to work and go to school.

In December 1994 at the age of 32, as soon as she graduated with her bachelors, she commissioned as an officer into the Air Force.

“Many of my friends and my family were surprised and the questions were, what are you going to do with your children? Of course I’m taking them with me,” said Frohling. “They thought I wouldn’t be able to do that as a mom, to raise them and also have the career in the military.”

Frohling said that her husband has been supportive of everything she has wanted to do, and he has always encouraged her to do so.

“During my first year in active duty I became pregnant with my sixth child,” said Frohling. “I could have never (had this career) without my husband; I couldn’t have raised the children successfully without his support.”

I had brothers who were Marines and they encouraged me to look into the military. I reached out to a recruiter early on, about a year before I graduated with my bachelors.

Col. Colleen Frohling, 375th Medical Group chief nurse

Since then she has also completed a Master’s of Science in Nursing/Nurse Administration at Phoenix University and a Master’s in International Relations at Troy University. She is currently working on a Doctor of Nursing Practice in Ethical Leadership.

Within her time as active duty, Frohling has held various roles such as being an instructor and being a commander. Once she retires [in about six years], she said she plans on continuing to educate future nurses, both civilian and Air Force, by teaching at local universities.

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