In July 2019, the 96th Medical Group became the first hospital in the Air Force to have an aerospace nurse practitioner on its staff.
Capt. Jessica Knizel was the first Airman assigned to the position by the Air Force Surgeon General. The 10-year nurse was the first of currently 10 nurse practitioners to accept the new Air Force job code of 46Y1F.
The new role will be to work directly with patients that require special standards of medical qualifications. Those include pilots, aircrew, missile crews, explosive ordnance disposal technicians among others. It is her responsibility those Airmen meet the medical standards for flying and special mission operations.
“As a nurse practitioner, I bring a unique perspective to the flight medicine community,” said the 16-year Airman. “I have unique experience from the reserves and civilian sector that has well positioned me for the new and exciting ANP role.”
In her position, Knizel assists with in-flight emergencies, disaster management along with exams, waivers and clearances. An ANP also preforms site visits and inspections to gain as much operational knowledge as possible to provide preventative medical guidance to the specialized aeromedical community.
“Our focus is on the whole patient, not just physically, but their well-being, their environment,” said the former reservist, who entered active-duty service to take the ANP position. “The more knowledge and understanding we have about our patients and their jobs, the better care we can provide them.”
To get a better perspective of her patients, Knizel trained with security forces and firefighters. Locally, she had hands-on training with EOD school technicians and trainees.
“I’m responsible for the health of flyers and divers,” joked Knizel, who was a nurse practitioner for more than four years before moving up to this specialized level.
To meet the demanding flight/special duty qualifications, Knizel took on more than six months of aerospace/operationally focused training, such as the centrifuge, altitude chamber and water survival training.
“We are excited to be on the cutting edge of developing capabilities, such as the ANP,” said Lt. Col. Anthony Mitchell, 96th Aerospace Medicine Squadron. “As we strive to ensure our fellow Airmen are ready to meet their mission at any time, the tactical realities of the flight/operational medicine clinic continue to evolve. This creates great opportunities to serve our patients and for flight surgeons and ANPs to get the job done together.”
To reach the elite, Knizel must complete a unique set of training combining traditional flight surgeon skills with her nurse practitioner experience. She said it was all worth the effort to be able to help in an innovative way and be at the forefront of a new beginning for Team Aerospace.
“I am honored by this great opportunity and hope I can set the standard for those who will take up the challenge of this new Air Force career in the future,” Knizel said.