Former Army drone operator finds career as orthopedic nurse

Jordan Parr-Hess, LPN, uses skills he learned from deployments to Afghanistan and Africa

A veteran LPN in a face mask works at his computer station at Sanford Health.

After acing a part-time LPN program at Southeast Tech during the COVID-19 pandemic, veteran Jordan Parr-Hess is adapting to life as a nurse for Sanford Health in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“It’s a great community. I’ve really found that brotherhood, that family mentality that I had in the military, in health care,” said Parr-Hess, who is originally from Belle Fourche.

Find support for veterans: Sanford Health Veteran and Military Services

Initially he hoped to become an Army medic after working as an emergency room technician in Rapid City. But Parr-Hess’s active-duty military career took off in a different way.

“I ended up being a 15W, which is an unmanned aerial systems operator. I was selected from there into the Gray Eagle program. It’s the Army’s version of the Predator,” Parr-Hess said. “I was one of the first 40 aircraft commanders certified in the platform for the Army.”

‘Orthopedic patient before I was an orthopedic nurse’

Deploying to Afghanistan with the Army and Africa as a private contractor, the 32-year-old says he learned communication and teaching skills he still uses to this day.

“It plays a big role. Just helping patients through their everyday lives, their appointments. Communicating with them and letting them know what’s going to happen today and how things are going to go and relaying providers’ recommendations,” Parr-Hess said.

Working in orthopedics and sports medicine, the former soldier can also relate to the people in his care.

“That’s what caused me leaving the military. I was in a motorcycle accident. I was an orthopedic patient before I was an orthopedic nurse,” Parr-Hess said.

Two surgeries and six months in casts were followed by six months of recovery.

“I had to relearn how to write, wash my hands, type. Shuffling a deck of cards was difficult. So, I kind of had to relearn how to use my hands,” Parr-Hess said.

‘A home in health care after the military’

Those hands are now used to bring out the best in others at Sanford Health, an organization the nurse finds different from other employers.

“Nobody ever asked my veteran status. There was nothing like the badges or anything like that,” Parr-Hess said while pointing to his Sanford veteran badge.

“Definitely coming over here I do see the veteran influence, the push for veterans a lot more. It is great to see.”

Sanford Health is determined to recruit veterans and active military into its nursing ranks and elsewhere.

“In the military, we’re told to hope and believe in something bigger than yourself,” Parr-Hess said. “I’ve found a home in health care after the military.”

In addition to his remaining GI Bill benefits for his military service, Parr-Hess says a Sanford sponsorship also helped pay for his nurse training.

Learn more

Posted In Nursing and Nursing Support, Orthopedics, Sanford Stories, Sioux Falls, Veterans