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Service Before Self

April 14, 2021 Posted in: Patients & Providers

From global conflict zones to the town where he grew up, Justin Brown, RN, has one goal: helping others.

“Being able to adjust and think on your feet and handle a high-stress atmosphere is pretty paramount.”

That’s how Bardstown native Justin Brown, RN, explains what it takes to care for patients as a nurse in the emergency room (ER) at Flaget Memorial Hospital, where he works on an as-needed basis. Those words could also describe the qualifications for his full-time job as a firefighter with the Bardstown Fire Department. A family tragedy led him to both roles.

“When I was in high school, my younger brother and I were helping a neighbor move a piano, and it fell on my brother,” Brown said. “We lost him, but I saw how hard the emergency medical services (EMS) crew worked trying to revive him. I wanted to do something to help people.”

A Doubly Essential Worker

Brown joined the military after high school and served tours in Iraq and Afghanistan. Between overseas deployments, he joined the fire department as a volunteer, earned certification as an emergency medical technician and began working for the local EMS. After leaving the military, Brown was drawn to health care. He entered nursing school and worked toward his degree while working full time for the fire department. In 2015, the newly minted nurse began his career in the ER at Flaget Memorial Hospital.

“The most gratifying thing about my nursing career is where I’m working,” Brown said. “This is my hometown. I know a lot of the folks who come in the ER. Being able to treat people and help them and their families through rough times is very fulfilling.”

Challenging but Worth It

Brown admits it can be difficult to balance being a nurse and a firefighter, but he’s driven to serve and has an understanding family that includes wife, C.J., 10-year-old daughter, Leah, and 6-year-old son, Benson.

Like nursing, firefighting is exciting and satisfying but also challenging. Brown learned that lesson early in his 15-year career.

“Barely two years into my career, I was close to hanging it up after a tragic fire in which a family of 10 perished,” he said. “A seasoned firefighter helped me get through that difficult time.”

Despite the challenges, Brown cherishes both roles he plays in his community.

“I’m blessed with two rewarding careers,” Brown said. “My son tells me he wants to do just what his daddy does. That really hits home for me.”

A version of this article originally appeared in the Winter 2021 edition of Spirit of Health. For more stories like this one, subscribe to Spirit of Health magazine today.

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