BREMERTON, WA, UNITED STATES
Story by Douglas Stutz
After 20 months of helping to stop the spread of COVID-19, alleviating tension and lessening the stress of long days and at times longer nights has led Naval Medicine Readiness and Training (NMRTC) Bremerton’s Pastoral Care department to actively promote the Caregiver Operational Stress Control (CgOSC) program.
One unique way CgOSC is being used is on Food Truck Friday with local, authorized vendors providing a mobile lunch time alternative for staff to break bread – along with burgers to burritos – in a new way.
Just as the phrase ‘break bread’ is an expressive description not just about noshing but also about sharing, so does the Food Truck Friday concept hinge on bringing people together and enjoying a meal, away from their clinic, exam room and work center.
“Working at a military treatment facility before COVID was already a hectic job, as one has to have both medical and military proficiencies. COVID has only made the usual job we have harder, more dangerous and deadly as we still maneuver through the last 20 months of managing this world-wide epidemic and the fatigue it is bringing to all aspects of human life. CgOSC makes us aware that care givers are the best caregivers for each other as we spend so much time together,” said Cmdr. John Miyahara, command clinical chaplain.
CgOSC is specifically tailored to encourage co-workers to look out for each other and actively engage in peer-to-peer intervention in handling stress and strain. What better way than over a prepared meal?
“In the hectic-ness of life in Navy Medicine, taking a break outside of the work place, breathing fresh air and getting some sunlight is essential to recharging our energy and clearing our minds, thus controlling our stress levels,” Miyahara said. “People always love to eat so getting an alternative option to come to the hospital this month was a fun way not only to get people out of the hospital and enjoy the weather, but also people can try new foods, share and talk about the experiences.”
Miyahara affirms that the food truck helps tie into CgOSC as a valuable way for staff to realize and remember about caring for caregivers and caring for themselves.
“If we do this program right and get a wide variety of ranks trained, which is my hope, then we have more eyes and ears at all levels who can give peer-to-peer buddy care, be aware when someone is struggling personally, offer mindfulness techniques, and help make referrals to other care providers for help. Or even simply say to another shipmate, “go out and get a breath of fresh air for five minutes,” stated Miyahara, adding that colleagues helping colleagues is at the heart of CgOSC.
“Peer-to-peer training, especially in what they call buddy care, teaches good habits of being concerned and how to show genuine care for fellow shipmates. Furthermore, although we are not an operational command, we are expeditionary. Ultimately our mission is to wage, sustain and win warfighting. CgOSC gives individuals skills to develop toughness, grit and eventually resilience in a warfighting and combat situations we must always train for and be ready to execute,” explained Miyahara.
One of Miyahara’s initial first goal after arriving at NHB approximately a year ago was to restart the CgOSC program. After some early success in the beginning, there was a drop-off mainly due to a number of transfers over the spring and summer.
“The two biggest pieces of the program are recruiting and training members of the command CgOSC team and promoting the program through training and events,” noted Miyahara. “We purposely planned the Food Truck Friday logistics so that staff have to walk past the CgOSC info table to get to the food truck so people could see the display, get information and talk to team members.”
Pastoral Care’s display table was set up to provide information and material on CgOSC to aid in reducing stress. Religious Program Specialist 2nd Class Christopher George was on hand to actively promote and enlist others to take an active part in the program, which consists of the command CgOSC team and instructor trainers along with training, education, outreach and collaboration, followed by program evaluation reporting.
“This is a great way to get involved. With CgOSC there are instructor and team member roles for everyone. We want as many as possible to take part. We have virtual training available that is a lot more than just sitting there watching a power point presentation of listening to someone say, ‘don’t get stressed out.’ We learn through actual active exercise on how to help others. There’s a lot of components to the training and is really value-added,” said George.
The food truck event is based upon a similar venue that NMRTC Guam had in place.
“I stole the idea from them,” admitted Miyahara. “The only hiccup in the concept was the almost four months of research, approvals and planning needed not only through our change of command but also through Navy Region Northwest to get approval for the program. I told my wife Andrea, ‘I never thought I’d spend so much time in this position learning how to bring a food truck to the hospital.’”
“In the routineness of work, having a little treat to look forward like a special lunch is a great motivation to get through the day,” Miyahara remarked. “I also hope people equate food trucks with CgOSC and caring for ourselves as well as our fellow shipmates.”
CgOSC is an offshoot of the Navy’s established operational stress program, an all-inclusive educational, training and communication effort under Navy Medicine designed to build resiliency in Sailors, family and commands, as well as increase understanding and acceptance that’s it’s okay to seek help for stress-related injury and illness.
“The CgOSC team is here to support our staff in any way, including personalized training in stress control, as we navigate not only our regular duties as military and civilian team co-workers, but continue to thrive during the many months of this global pandemic,” concluded Miyahara.