The stress and anxiety over COVID-19 remains significant throughout our country. Aside from the unknowns surrounding this contagion, the pandemic has introduced limitations to daily social life, forced individuals into lengthy periods of isolation, and spurred concerns over financial matters. For those who are beginning a ROM status, this state of stress can feel intensified.
As we continue to confront the challenges we face from COVID-19, we must all have the confidence that regardless of the setting, we never work alone, nor should we feel that we have to suffer in silence. No one is alone in this fight – our One Navy Medicine team must remain vigilant and help those most in need. This pandemic has touched each of us in one way or another. Many of us know someone directly affected by this virus, and emotions are difficult to process when you are restricted from being with them. Sadly, many have been laid to rest without their loved ones present –and this tragedy in itself is on a greater level for our Sailors and Marines.
We are all leaders no matter where we sit in the organization, and I expect each of you to reach out to your colleagues and shipmates to see how they are doing. In addition to our formal mechanisms of PDHA and PDHRA, I ask that we continue to engage and stay close to these individuals and provide them all the time and support needed as they transition back to their regular duties.
Throughout this fight against COVID-19, our mental health providers have taken on the onus of responsibility, and although their roles are often unsung, the work they do each day has been commendable. Whether at the MTF setting or with embedded mental health teams, our psychiatrists, psychologists, psychiatric mental health nurse practitioners, licensed clinical social workers, behavioral health technicians, and Navy Chaplains continue to leverage principles of high velocity learning to be resourceful and innovative while enhancing mission readiness. Below are a few examples I would like to share with you:
- Special Psychiatric Readiness Intervention Team (SPRINT). In early April, we mobilized a SPRINT to Guam to provide needed assistance to the TR Sailors in quarantine at the time. In collaboration with the 3rd Medical Battalion, Naval Hospital Guam and the Guam Chaplain Corps, this SPRINT used innovative methods to deliver remote Psychological First Aid. These very methods continue to be impactful and have been used at other commands since.
- Virtual Peer Support. Through its Caregiver Occupational Stress Control program, Naval Hospital Jacksonville pioneered a website enabling virtual peer support for those dealing with stress at the hospital. In addition, providers with Naval Medical Center San Diego developed a web tool to help personnel manage everyday stress.
- Telehealth. Throughout this fight, many of our providers have also begun to embrace telehealth and this has been especially true for mental health specialists. Telehealth continues to serve as a significant tool allowing for that provider-patient connection when there are movement restrictions. This capability is destined to grow more robust in this new normal.
In closing, please remember that there are many avenues to getting healthcare and counseling and there is NO WRONG WAY to access it! I can assure you that regardless of where you serve or what you do, NO ONE IS ALONE IN THIS FIGHT – you will always have the full force of Navy Medicine’s power with you. Together, our talent, knowledge, toughness, creativity, and teamwork will get us through all the challenges we face from COVID-19 and will emerge a stronger and even more capable organization.
In a time when the Fleet and Marine Corps have never needed us more, you are making a positive difference for them every day. Thank you!
With my continued respect and admiration,
Bruce L. Gillingham, MD, CPE, AOA
RADM, MC, USN
Surgeon General, U.S. Navy
Chief, Bureau of Medicine and Surgery