So, what’s your story: Nursing professor Linda Connelly returns to UNF after tour in Iraq, time in DC

Kasandra Ortiz

Photo by Connor Spielmaker

From UNF to Iraq, with many stops in between, former Deputy Chief of the Army Nurse Corp and Professor of Nursing Linda Connelly always makes her way back to the home of the Ospreys.

Connelly retired from the Army Nurse Corps Sept. 30 after 24 years of service. Twenty-four years, nine months, and 19 days, she said. But the length of Connelly’s teaching career is catching up to her Army record—she has been at UNF for a decade now.

Connelly’s career at UNF began August 2002. She started teaching in a 13-month program for accelerated students with an existing degree in another discipline.

“Linda Connelly was instrumental in guiding many of the activities for the early accelerated program,” said Dr. Lillia Loriz, director of the school of nursing, “This program is a very successful addition to the UNF School of Nursing.”

Connelly had her hands on all aspects of the nursing program from medical and surgical nursing classes to practice classes for the students.

In high school, she jumped right into her nursing career, working as a candy striper in the emergency room. Then she worked in a nursing home, and was later hired as an instrument cleaner in the operating room of a hospital.

“Ever since I was little I always wanted to be a nurse,” she said. “There was nothing else I ever wanted to be.”

Connelly’s father served in the military, so serving her country was always in the back of her mind. Her sister and brother-in-law, who are also in the medical field, suggested she join the Army. It was later that her passion for military service, nursing, and teaching came together.

Connelly began her military career by joining the Army Reserve in 1988. As an army reservist  she served one weekend per month as well as two weeks per year.

In the fall of 2008, Connelly was called to active duty in Iraq. As a lieutenant, she was in charge of many surrounding hospitals and more than 300 soldiers.

“Being a lieutenant was seeing my friends, getting a cup of coffee, using night vision goggles and my M-16, and practicing a convoy plane hospital,” Connelly said.

Her daily routine also included making hospital rounds, getting reports from surrounding facilities, and using her strategic skills to anticipate what would happen next in the war.

Connelly briefly returned to UNF after leaving Iraq. She said it was a shock to return to teaching because of the different pace.

Soon after, Connelly moved to Washington D.C., where she spent three years as surgeon general in the Army Nurse Corps.

However, her desire to be with her family and her love for teaching brought Connelly back to Jacksonville, once again.

“The university was very supportive and welcomed me back with open arms,” she said.

Connelly’s educational accomplishments are just as impressive as her Army career. She will soon receive her doctorate after defending her dissertation, which is about why nurses volunteer for disaster — subject matter Connelly knows much about.

Retirement from the Army Nurse Corps will not stop Connelly’s nursing services altogether. She has volunteered for a position with the American Red Cross and is on the TriService Nursing Research Advisory Board. Still, her students are her main focus and her passion for teaching continues.

“I want to improve my skills as a teacher and become involved in distance learning, as well as get involved in the community, so that we … [at] UNF can be recognized as a leader in our community,” Connelly said.

Email Kasandra Ortiz at [email protected]