Within the Fairfax County Police Department, Nancy Burke is known as the lifesaver who brings officers back to work after injuries they have sustained on and off the job. Nationally and internationally, she’s known as the woman who designed the first law-enforcement athletic-training program for a police department at the local level.
In the first six months of 2017 alone, she received nearly 400 visits and provided 2,300 treatments to agency employees.
Twelve years ago, Burke worked with a commander at the Fairfax County Criminal Justice Academy to launch the athletic-training program, which she based on Division I sports. While several federal agencies have athletic trainers, Burke’s program was the first of its kind in the U.S. to make professional services available full-time and at no cost to officers serving at the local law-enforcement level.
Burke previously worked as an athletic trainer for Fairfax County Public Schools, retiring in 2005 after 29 years. Officers working overtime assignments at local high-school ball games took note of her expertise and turned to her regularly for advice. She began to realize that resources available to high-school athletes were not as easily available, affordable and accessible to men and women whose jobs depend on their physical and mental well-being.
“We have to protect our people,” she said of the officers. “We have to take care of them.”
The initial goal was to reduce medical costs by 10 percent and decrease the time an officer or employee was out of work after an injury. According to Burke, the department achieved and surpassed that goal, reducing medical costs for academy recruits by up to 90 percent. Officers have been returning to full-duty status in much less time than ever before, police said.