“Twindividuality”: Twin Army Nurses Share Same Passion, But Different Specialties

2017 - Twins Neidra and Deidra with family, friends, and TAMC Periop leadership team. (Courtesy Photo)

By Vivian Mason

There’s an old adage that says “good things come in pairs,” and twin sisters Army Maj. Deidra Dodd and Army Maj. Neidra Simmons exemplify that idea. While their specialities have taken them on vastly different paths at the Uniformed Services University’s (USU) Daniel K. Inouye Graduate School of Nursing (GSN), their shared passion for nursing improves the lives of every person they encounter.

Though they’re identical twins, Neidra and her younger sister (by one minute) Deidra, insist that their differences are pronounced. Deidra’s favorite color is green, while Neidra prefers orange. Deidra likes a good Zinfandel, while Neidra enjoys a chilled rosé. At the GSN, Deidra found a passion for adult and geriatric critical care, while Neidra discovered a passion for maternal-newborn care and labor and delivery. 

USU doctoral student, Army Maj. Deidra Dodd, is part of the GSN class of 2024. (Photo credit: Army Maj. Deidra Dodd)
USU doctoral student, Army Maj. Deidra Dodd, is part of
the GSN class of 2024. (Photo credit: Army Maj. Deidra
Despite those differences, however, Deidra says that “being twins has actually helped [them do their] work more effectively.” Although they don't communicate telepathically, their shared life experiences have enabled them to understand each other's study and work habits, as well as their strengths and weaknesses.

Deidra and Neidra both say they have always been interested in nursing, noting that, at a young age, they got a firsthand look at nursing when they watched their paternal grandmother, a dedicated nurse, provide dialysis care to their grandfather. Through their upbringing, the twins grew into very compassionate individuals with a strong desire to help others.

The pair grew up in Gadsden, Alabama, with nonmilitary parents and no aspirations of joining the military themselves. However, close family members and friends of the family inspired Deidra and Neidra to attend Tuskegee University’s Nursing Program on a four-year Army ROTC Nursing Scholarship, and the opportunity to use their service as a way to pay for education was too good to pass up. 

After graduation, the two began their active duty careers at the same duty station: Winn Army Community Hospital at Fort Stewart, Georgia. For a year and a half, Neidra worked as a new nurse on the mother-baby unit, and Deidra worked on the medical-surgical unit. Aside from their differences in career goals, Deidra jokes, “I believe we weren’t placed on the same unit because everyone would have gotten us confused.”

When eligible, they both applied – just months apart – for one of the Army's 16-week specialty courses. Neidra took the Obstetrical and Gynecological Nursing specialty course at Tripler Army Medical Center in Hawaii and was later stationed at Fort Benning, Georgia. Deidra completed the Critical Care Nursing specialty course at Brooke Army Medical Center at Fort Sam Houston, TX before also finding herself at Fort Benning. 

“We knew that having different specialties would take us on different paths and make it unlikely for us to get stationed together again,” admits Neidra. “However, we were fortunate to have a six-month overlap at the end of my time at Fort Benning, where I was the head nurse of the mother-baby unit in the middle of transitioning to the new hospital.”

“We were often told that we shouldn't try to go into the same profession or even work at the same location,” Deidra adds. “It was suggested that we needed to be individual. But, I have never felt that we weren't unique. So, upon returning from deployment, Fort Benning was my obvious choice because I was planning to marry my long-time fiancé who was nearby in Alabama. Neidra was also there. Together we served there as head nurses of separate units.” 

Deidra notes their relationship is one of a kind. “We understand each other. We push each other, and we motivate each other in our accomplishments. Many people don't always have that kind of support to their left or right, but I have always had my twin. When I see Neidra do something, I feel as if I can do it, too.”

“When working through challenges or new tasks,” Neidra chimes in, “it helps to have someone be a sounding board. Deidra knows where I'm coming from and vice versa. It's great having a partner like that in your corner.” 

“USU emphasizes professional interactions and prepares you for those difficult conversations... There's something special about the faculty and how they interact with everyone. They're accessible, and they really care about you, your education, and your success.” - Army Maj. Deidra Dodd, GSN Class of 2024

Their plan was always to try to do their schooling together. So, when Neidra made the first move towards long-term health education and training by submitting her packet to attend USU prior to leaving for a one-year tour in Korea, she encouraged Deidra to do the same. But their plans didn’t quite align. Deidra had to adjust her timeline because she was transferred to Hawaii, with her spouse and newborn son. 

“My first thought was to wait for better timing,” confesses Neidra. “But something told me to just go for it. One task at a time, I continued the application process for long-term health education and training. From there, things just begin to fall in line.” 

In May 2021, Neidra graduated from the GSN’s Doctorate of Nursing Practice (DNP)-Family and Women's Health Nurse Practitioner Program at USU. Deidra is currently a full-time student in the same GSN program and will graduate in 2024.

“It’s an honor to have been selected for the GSN program and be able to follow in my sister's footsteps,” remarks Deidra. “What I like most about USU is working alongside peers from various professional backgrounds, be they Army, Navy, Air Force, or physicians, nurses, medical students, and nursing students. It's great to get their perspectives on various challenges.”

Neidra says that the thing she loved about her GSN time was the opportunity to experience so many different specialties to find one that truly resonated with her. Currently, she is stationed at Eisenhower Army Medical Center in Augusta, Ga., serving as the Officer in Charge of the Family Medicine Clinic and the Influenza-Like Illness Clinic. 

“There are just so many options,” Neidra says. “The Nurse Practitioner route is an excellent way to go, and we certainly have an essential role alongside our physician teammates. My sister and I share a passion for preventative care and value the relationships we get to build with our patients in the process.” 

“USU emphasizes professional interactions and prepares you for those difficult conversations,” Deidra adds. “In some of our classes, we talk about controversial topics in healthcare. The professors really try to build teams early because we must work well with each other in the clinical setting for the sake of patient safety.”

Once Deidra graduates from the DNP program at USU, she plans to be the best collaborative team member and leader she can be to provide high-quality patient care as she continues to sharpen her skills as a practitioner.

USU alumna, Army Maj. Neidra Simmons, DNP, FNP-C, WHNP-BC, graduated as part of the GSN class of 2021. (Photo credit: Army Maj. Deidra Dodd)
USU alumna, Army Maj. Neidra Simmons, DNP, FNP-C,
WHNP-BC, graduated as part of the GSN class of 2021.
(Photo credit: Army Maj. Deidra Dodd)
“I get excited about the impact I can have as a nurse on people's lives,” Deidra says. “We translate our knowledge into something our patients can digest and use to improve their own lives. Also, it's good to reinforce patient education, which can have a profound effect. I love seeing when people can identify the impact of all of this on their lives. It's so rewarding.”

“In nursing,” Neidra elaborates, “with each encounter you have the opportunity to positively affect someone’s life. When educating patients, I always explain the why, empowering patients and families to make informed decisions regarding their health and quality of life. As doctoral prepared professionals, we are able to consume the latest clinical evidence and bring that information to our patients who may not take the time to do the research themselves.” 

So what advice would these twin sisters have for anyone pursuing or looking to pursue the DNP degree? 

“Learn to be okay with being uncomfortable, because it will be challenging, but it is all necessary for growth,” Neidra encourages.

Deidra’s advice? “Find examples of people you admire and model your career after them. Talk with those individuals, observe everything, and get advice and guidance.” She also recommends watching how they communicate with patients and then incorporate those characteristics into your own practice.

The twins aren't entirely sure about what they want to do after the military, but their dream is to work together to improve the quality of life for others considering a holistic approach, and they’re incredibly thankful for their time at USU for helping them get closer to that dream.

“There's something special about the faculty and how they interact with everyone,” Deidra says. “They're accessible, and they really care about you, your education, and your success. The entire DNP program makes you well-rounded, a better critical thinker, and a better nurse. I love this profession, and I can't wait to be out in the field helping my patients and seeing them through a progression of care.” 

Neidra agrees with her sister, and concludes by adding that they are “so grateful for the opportunity to attend USU. The faculty are truly invested in the success of their students. The experience has undoubtedly shaped me into a better clinician and military professional. Aside from my one-of-a-kind educational experience, combining both academia and military training, I left USU with lifelong friends who I’ll forever cherish and colleagues I can always call upon.”